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who really owns your seeds?



The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, January 28, 1999
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PRODUCE MARKET:  AS GENETICISTS DEVELOP AN APPETITE FOR
GREENS, MR. ROMO FLOURISHES.  MEXICAN BILLIONAIRE CONTROLS
SEED SALES AMID RUSH TO CREATE NEW STRAINS  -- Lessons From
the Flavr-Savr, By Jonathan Friedland and Scott Kilman, Staff Reporters
of The Wall Street Journal, Mexico

   From his plush offices in this high-desert city, Alfonso Romo Garza
set out five years ago to acquire companies that sell vegetable seeds.
Quietly, he bought five in the U.S., two in Europe, three in Asia and one
in South America.

   Now, 40% of all vegetables sold in U.S. supermarkets derive from Mr.
Romo's seeds.  Fill your plate at the salad bar of a U.S. restaurant chain,
and probably half of what you eat started life as a Romo seed.
Revenue from his seed operation is nearly twice that of his nearest
rival, owned by Switzerland's Novartis AG.  World-wide, his
vegetable-seed stake is about 25%.  This makes Mr. Romo the global
king of vegetable seeds, a title no previous seed seller ever sought.
That's not surprising:  Vegetable seeds are a low-margin, slow-growth,
uncreative business.  Even by the standards of the agriculture industry,
vegetable seeds are as boring as dirt.....