Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Future of Seeds

Monsanto buys Seminis

The biggest player in biotech is now the largest seed company in the world following a purchase worth a cool billion.

By Matthew Dillon
This article first appeared in the March/April 2005 issue of Organic Broadcaster

In the 1960s, a few larger seed firms began to purchase smaller companies (mostly to acquire strong hybrid holdings). But the consolidations of this period were minor compared to the frenzy that would come with a Supreme Court ruling on June 16, 1980, in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty. Prior to the Chakrabarty decision, a plant (or animal) could be owned, but the genetics could not. This case cleared the patenting of life forms on the bases of their genetic coding. The PTO granted more than 1,800 such patents following the ruling. Companies that had no historical seed interests—primarily chemical and pharmaceutical firms—began purchasing seed companies. In a few short years, there were billions of dollars in mergers and acquisitions—with little to no regulatory oversight—creating for the first time a majority ownership of plant genetics by a few multinational companies. No other natural resource (marine, timber, minerals) has ever shifted from public to private hands with such rapidity, such intensity of concentration, and so little oversight.
Diamond v. Chakrabarty

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