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Organic Consumers Association

Gene Giants Seek "Philanthrogopoly"

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

A report released today by ETC Group warns that 6 multinational Gene Giants control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF,[i] Dow, Monsanto and DuPont control 59.8 % of commercial seeds and 76.1 % of agrochemicals. The same 6 companies account for at least 76 % of all private sector R&D in these two sectors.

Amid unprecedented corporate concentration, ETC Group's report provides a critical look at new initiatives launched by the Gene Giants - including the false promise of cheap, post-patent GE seeds - aiming to appease antitrust regulators and pass off oligopolistic practices as acts of charity. Meanwhile, the world's two richest men - Bill Gates and Mexico's Carlos Slim - are teaming up with CIMMYT (the international public maize and wheat breeding center based in Mexico) to get bargain GE seeds and traits in the hands of farmers in the global South.

"The notion that farmers in the South will benefit from post-patent GE seeds is patently absurd," said Silvia Ribeiro, ETC's Latin America Director. "Under the guise of charity, the Gene Giants are devising new schemes to soften opposition to transgenics and reach new markets. In reality, the Gene Giants don't have the capacity or the interest to supply the diversity needed in sustainable farming systems or to meet the urgent need for locally adapted varieties, especially in the face of climate change," said Ribeiro.

In the face of soon-to-expire patents on a handful of biotech traits, the big-hearted Gene Giants claim they are making it possible to gain access to generic biotech traits through a legally-binding "accord." The deal, which was originally drafted by Monsanto, encompasses two agreements[ii] that lay out the rules for access to generic biotech traits at patent expiration. According to ETC Group, the contracts will ultimately control the terms of access to expired traits and reinforce market power among a handful of giant seed companies.


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