Against the Grain: The World Seed Conference

Early last week, the 2nd annual World Seed Conference convened in Rome, Italy, with the seemingly innocuous aim of addressing agricultural challenges in the context of increasing populations, climate change, energy consumption, and scarcity of land. The official "declaration" of the conference reads: "Urgent government measures and increased public and private investment in the seed sector are required for the long term if agriculture is to meet the challenge of food security in the context of population growth and climate change."

The actual consequences of these developments to the "seed sector" are nicely laid out by Robin Willoughby of the NGO Share the World's Resources. One of the disturbing issues he explains is the implementation of intellectual property laws to "protect" the rights of agribusinesses:

Under the guise of innovation and progress, breeding companies suggest that seed varieties developed in laboratories in the North and then sold to poorer farmers in the South can raise yields in crops, increase nutritional values, reduce pesticide and fossil fuels use as well as conserve biodiversity. In the words of one participant at the conference, his company utilised ‘the art and science of changing the genetics of plants for the benefit of humankind.'

Advocates from industry argue that to safeguard their investment in these manipulated ‘seed innovations' governments should use a form of legal construction (intellectual property rights) to prevent farmers from re-using and changing seeds that are a ‘product' of agribusiness. Industry lobbyists also suggest that such monopoly rights should extend to developed plants varieties that business cannot easily control by technology - for example due to natural reproduction.
As we have seen in different contexts, the negatives far outweigh the positives of such a situation that does little, in the end, to address the problem it sets out to solve. With agri-giants such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta leading the way, it is just another instance of placing profit over people.

Read the entire article on ZNet.

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  1. Yes - these companies talk of their plant technology as beneficial to mankind and how they hold the possibility of helping the poor and better feeding the world. That's great rhetoric until you realize that they're out there "protecting" their intellectual property which forces poor farmers around the globe to purchase seeds every growing season instead of using seeds harvest from the previous season. It's all about the profit for the shareholders.

  2. Sounds like yet another of the vast numbers of schemes out there, perhaps not unlike the Archer Daniels Midland Company and their lysine price fixing from the nineties.

    On a related note, any recommendations for which seed banks to purchase seed packets from?

  3. There are a number of seed companies that offer good seeds. Try these:

    And check out this site for an organic seed supplier search:


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