Since the mid-1990s just five biotech giants – Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and DuPont – have bought up more than 200 other companies between them to dominate our access to seeds.
Graphic illustrates how just five biotech giants have increased their control of the global seed market, promoting monoculture farming and making it harder for farmers to find alternative sources of seeds
Philip Howard from Michigan State university, who has produced a unique visual to illustrate this growing concentration of power in the hands of a few companies, says the takeover of the seed market has been ‘dramatic’ and that it is getting harder for farmers to find alternatives.
In the US for example, where 90 per cent of the soybeans grown are genetically-modified varieties, many conventional farmers have had difficulty obtaining non-genetically modified seeds to plant.
Howard says the increasing power of seed companies is ‘incompatible’ with renewable agricultural practices such as saving and replanting seeds. He says one solution to restricting their control would be through banning the practice of granting patents on seeds, plants and genes.
A patent gives a company exclusive rights to sell and develop a new invention. In the case of patents on plants and genes it grants them temporary monopolies and bans farmers from saving seeds, forcing them to buy new seeds from the company each year or pay a license to use patented seeds they have saved.
Howard and others argue that ‘excessive seed patenting’ by the biotech giants is allowing them to control a large number of seeds and leading to an increase in seed prices and a decrease of seed choices for farmers.
The groundbreaking IAASTD report in 2008, conducted by 400 scientists from around the world, criticised patents for driving up costs and restricting experimentation by farmers in developing countries.
A report, ‘Future of seeds and food’, published last year by a coalition of campaign groups, including Greenpeace, called for an end to patents on seeds to halt the domination of biotech giants like Syngenta. It says only bigger seed companies can afford to apply and enforce a patent.
‘Patents exacerbate genetic erosion as they promote monoculture by hindering the development of new seed varieties. In sum, the possible, long term consequences of patents are control of the whole food chain by a few companies,’ said the report.
‘What is needed most is a clear legal ruling that exempts seeds and farm animals from patent protection.’
Be Part of the Solution
By Dr Mercola:
“In spite of what you have likely heard, a large shift to organic agriculture — which by definition is non-GM — could protect and improve both the environment and animal- and human health.
It could even be the solution to world hunger. According to a Danish study presented to the U.N. in 2007, recent models of an organically grown, global food supply shows that a more environmentally friendly approach to agriculture is in fact capable of producing enough food for the world’s current population.
What prevents many farmers from making the move to organic is that crop yields could initially drop as much as 50 percent in the very beginning, before evening out over time. However, that problem may be mitigated somewhat, because farmers wouldn’t need to dole out precious money for toxic pesticides, the price of which have risen as much as 75 percent already.
Unfortunately, while we’re waiting for the leaders of the world to catch up and realize the dire straits we’re in as a species, we’re running out of time. So, please, do not wait for some unspecified time in the future.
Instead, do what you can NOW to promote local organic food producers no matter where you live by taking advantage of local sources of organic foods as often as you can.
In addition, please take every measure you can to avoid as many GM foods as you possibly can. Here’s a list of tips to help you do just that:
- Reduce or eliminate processed foods. Some 75 percent of processed foods contain GM ingredients.
- Read produce and food labels. When looking at a product label, if any ingredients such as corn flour and meal, dextrin, starch, soy sauce, margarine, and tofu (to name a few) are listed, there’s a good chance it has come from GM corn or soy, unless it’s listed as organic.
- Buy organic produce. Buying organic is currently the best way to ensure that your food has not been genetically modified.
- Don’t buy seeds, swap them!”
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