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Seeds, Patents and Power: The Shifting Foundation

 |  November 25, 2014

Posted by Social Science Research Network

Seeds, Patents and Power: The Shifting Foundation – James Matson and Minli Tang (The City Law School of City University London) Sarah Wynn Independent

ABSTRACT: Our food supply rests on a foundation of agricultural seed. As the world races to meet soaring food demand, the development and control of this fundamental genetic resource will be of critical concern to the entire human community. Seed, once treated as a shared public good and natural resource, is now subject to strict patent control. Patents have encouraged investment and research, but have also facilitated concentrated private ownership. A highly concentrated seed industry already controls much of the U.S agricultural seed resource. This paper examines the history, legal context, structure and practices of the U.S. corn and soybean seed industry, which may become the model for other crop sectors and world markets. It analyzes the relationship between seed patent law and antitrust law, and considers the antitrust policy challenges posed by the new seed industry. It calls for systematic study and monitoring of the seed industry, and offers some starting points and an analytical framework. This paper also poses some basic questions about the long-term future of agricultural seed.