In August 2009, the US Department of Justice (DoJ), together with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a series of workshops intended to “explore competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry”. - Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy – will enquire into agriculture and into the dairy, poultry and livestock industries. One of several workshops that has been scheduled will take place in Iowa and address “…seed technology, vertical integration, market transparency and buyer power”.
These hearings will ask if mergers and acquisitions have reduced competition in the US seed industry. While this enquiry is US centric, CAS-IP, in its role to assist the CGIAR and its constituency of resource-poor farmers, argues that the availability of seed to poor farmers is critical to current and future food security. This is no longer a national issue, and the food security of developing nations is of great concern to the US and to other developed nations. By way of example, at the July, 2009 L’Aquila Summit President Obama made a powerful statement of support for agricultural development in developing countries:
“We have committed to investing $20 billion in food security — agricultural development programs to help fight world hunger. This is in addition to the emergency humanitarian aid that we provide. And I should just note…we had agreed to $15 billion; we exceeded that mark and obtained an additional $5 billion of hard commitments. We do not view this assistance as an end in itself. We believe that the purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it’s no longer needed — to help people become self-sufficient, provide for their families, and lift their standards of living.”
Based on 2006 revenues the ETC Group estimates that the top ten global seed companies control 47% of the global proprietary seed market. Of the top 10, three are US based and control 40% of the global proprietary seed market. Any reduction of competition within the US will impact agriculture and, potentially, food security in the developing world. Our submission to the DoJ argues, therefore, that the investigation be expanded and reference the impacts of reduced competition and the concentration of IP ownership within the US seed industry on developing countries.
Over the last year, our System Dynamics Modeling team has been studying the seed sector in several African countries and prepared a case study of the seed sector in Malawi. This analysis, which supports our contention that reduced competition may have negative impact on agriculture in developing countries, is an integral part of the CAS submission to DoJ.
With support from PIIPA, Pillsbury Law provided pro bono legal consultations on the preparation of the submission, which was delivered on December 31st. The document can be downloaded at http://www.cas-ip.org/resources/publications/publications-impact-of-seed-company-competition-on-access/
The paper is authored by Guat Hong Teh, Sebastian Derwisch, Victoria Henson-Apollonio and Peter Bloch of the CGIAR Central Advisory Service on Intellectual Property (CAS-IP). The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Donna O. Perdue of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP