Multinational Corporatations have been planning the obsolescence of raw untreated seed and open pollinated seed for many years. Virtual total control is in the hands of a small seed cartel and consolidations of control are continuing.
"The trade continues to consolidate into fewer and fewer behemoths. At the end of Sept. '95, Empress la Modema (ELM) completed the combination of Asgrow/Petroseed/Royal Sluis Co.'s. Asgrow has been owned by Upjohn, Peto part of the George J.Ball group which includes W. Atlee Burpee Co, Denholm Seeds, Vaughn Seeds and Pan-American Seed Co. Huge would beunderstating the size of the resulting juggernaut. In late June, Monsanto Co. announced it's intention to purchase a 49.9% equity interest in debt ridden Calgene, Inc., a move designed to shore up one of biotechnology's giants with badly needed capital infusion, and one with profound implications for the future of genetically altered products.
Mergemania is not restricted to the mighty. Some small companies are not what they seem to be. Did you know that specialty houses Seymour's Selected Seeds, Totally Tomatoes and Vermont Bean Seed Co. are all part of the R.H. Shumway Co.? That Cook's Garden sold it's business including it's entire order operation to Park Seeds in S. Carolina, and has moved it's trial facilities to Burlington Vermont, to be integrated with Gardener's Supply Research Gardens?
Seed savers took another blow on Oct. 6, 1994, when President Clinton signed into law congressionally approved amendments to the 1970 Plant Variety Protection Act(Plant Patenting Law) completely eliminating a farmer's right to sell any extra seed of a protected variety or even offer them through such organizations such as the Seed Savers Exchange.
Continued consolidation of the international seed industry will accelerate. By the year 2000, 10 to 20 multinational seed and plant biotechnology co.'s will dominate the most profitable segments of the global seed trade and that consolidations will also continue among small, regional multi-crop seed co.'s. Meanwhile, university plant breeding programs that contributed so vitally to new varietal developments for most of this century are getting less and less funding and are falling into desuetude.
Can small co.'s survive or thrive in such a harsh environment? It is possible. Moreover, cooperation between small seed co's and heirloom seed savers has already begun. Small co's are actually in good position to respond to trends. Building a base of regional speciality varieties can over time reduce our dependency on the multinational co's. Trends toward heirloom varieties and open pollinated raw seed disturbs the giants greatly.
Many of us are concerned that seed savers have fewer and fewre rights. In some European countries, a system of national listings regulates what varieties can or cannot be sold. Fortunately, conditions are not that restrictive in USA. If we are to retain our inalienable right to grow whatever seeds we wish, what is to be done?"