info4action archive


GE - World Seed Conference: Shrinking Club of Industry Giants

[for more info on this subject see last weeks excellent SchNEWS and see bottom
of email for reminder re: Seeds of Resistance]

>Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
>News Release
>3 September 1999
>        **  World Seed Conference: Shrinking Club of Industry Giants  **
>                Gather for Wake or Pep Rally?
>        **RAFI Releases Newly Updated ÆSeed Industry Giants: Who Owns Whom?**
>An inauspicious gathering of the 1999 World Seed Conference takes place
>6-8 September in Cambridge UK to mark the 75th anniversary of the
>international seed trade. RAFI takes this opportunity to release its 1999
>update on seed industry consolidation. A shrinking number of colossal
>companies - the Gene Giants - dominate global sales of seeds,
>agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. "Given the dramatic rate of
>consolidation in the global seed trade, membership is evaporating and all
>of the seed industry CEO's could probably meet for a weenie roast on
>someone's patio," remarks Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI, who is
>among the featured speakers at next week's World Seed Conference.
>According to RAFI, the top five Gene Giants (AstaZeneca, DuPont, Monsanto,
>Novartis, Aventis) account for nearly two-thirds of the global pesticide
>market (60%), almost one-quarter (23%) of the commercial seed market, and
>virtually 100% of the transgenic (genetically modified) seed market. "The
>Gene Giants' portfolio extends far beyond plant breeding," explains
>Mooney, "From plants, to animals, to human genetic material they are fast
>becoming monopoly monarchs over all the life kingdoms," said Mooney.
>Five years ago, none of top 5 Gene Giants appeared on the list of leading
>seed corporations. In fact, 3 of the top 5 companies didn't even exist
>(Zeneca + Astra merged to form AstraZeneca; Rhone Poulenc + Hoechst became
>Aventis; Ciba Geigy + Sandoz became Novartis. DuPont swallowed Pioneer
>Hi-Bred earlier this year.
>A few short years ago, many would have predicted that the 1999 World Seed
>Conference would be a gala event to reap the profits and promise of
>genetically modified (GM) seeds.  After all, sales of transgenic seeds
>grew twenty-fold from 1995-1998; analysts predicted industry revenues
>would surpass $3 billion in 2000 and explode to $25 billion in 2010.  But
>much has changed in the past year. The Cambridge gathering is rapidly
>taking on the trappings of a wake, and the group might forego their patio
>picnic to hunker down in a bunker instead. The civil society organizations
>who plan to protest in Cambridge under the banner "Seeds of Resistance,"
>will reinforce the message that GMOs are under siege
>Seed Industry Top 10
>Company                 Seed Sales (US)
>                        Millions - 1998
>DuPont (USA)            $1,835+
>Monsanto (USA)          $1,800  (estimate)
>Novartis(Switzerland)   $1,000
>Groupe Limagrain (France)       $733
>Savia S.A. de C.V.  (Mexico)    $428
>AstraZeneca (UK and Neth.)      $412
>KWS AG (Germany)                $370
>AgriBiotech, Inc. (USA)         $370
>Sakata (Japan)          $349*
>Takii (Japan)         $300*  (estimate)
>    Top 10 Agrochemical Companies
>Company Pesticide Sales (US) Millions 1998
>Aventis (Germany)               $4,676
>Novartis (Switzerland)  $4,152
>Monsanto (USA)          $4.032
>DuPont (USA)            $3,156
>AstraZeneca (UK and Neth.)      $2,897
>Bayer (Germany)         $2,273
>American Home Products  $2,194
>Dow (USA)               $2,132
>BASF (Germany)          $1,945
>Makhteshim-Agan (Israel)           $801
>Source: RAFI and Agrow No. 335 August 27 1999.  *Note: 1998 sales figures
>were not available for some seed companies
>Consolidation: Vital Statistics
>… The top 10 seed companies control approximately 33% of the $23 billion
>seed trade worldwide.
>… The top 3 seed companies (DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis) account for 20% of
>the global seed trade.
>… The top 10 agrochemical companies control 91% of the $31 billion
>agrochemical market.
>… The top five Gene Giants (AstraZeneca, DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis and
>Aventis) account for nearly two-thirds of the global pesticide market
>(60%), almost one-quarter (23%) of the global seed market, and virtually
>100% of the transgenic seed market.
>In the words of US Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, opposition to
>genetically engineered foods and seeds, once confined to Europe, has
>spread like "an infectious disease." The list of food processors,
>retailers, farmers, consumers and governments who give a thumbs down to
>GMOs is mushrooming. Earlier this year, the world's largest food
>processors, Unilever and Nestle, said they would reject GM ingredients in
>their European products. Europe's largest grocery store chains followed
>suit.  Last week, Japanese brewers, Kirin and Sapporo, announced they
>would begin using only non-genetically engineered maize to brew their
>beer. The Japanese government now requires companies to label genetically
>engineered products.
>In the dog house: Mexico's biggest tortilla maker, Grupo Maseca, says it
>will stop importing genetically modified grain. After Greenpeace disclosed
>that commercial baby food contains GMOs, US-based Gerber (Novartis) and
>H.J. Heinz vowed to reject genetically engineered corn and soya. Adding
>insult to injury, US pet food company Iams recently announced that GMO
>maize isn't acceptable for dog food!
>In Brazil, the world's second largest exporter of soybeans, a federal
>judge barred the planting of GM soybeans until environmental impact
>assessments are prepared. The Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul has
>declared itself a GM-free state.
>Farmers Defecting :  Peasants and farmers worldwide, from France to India
>to Brazil have successfully protested the introduction of GM seeds. Now,
>even US farmers may be defecting from a genetically modified future. A
>Deutsche Bank study entitled "GMOs Are Dead" sent tremors through the
>international investment community with its prediction in May, 1999 that
>price premiums for GMO seeds could collapse. In a desperate attempt to
>rescue a sinking ship, Deutsche Bank reports that Monsanto began offering
>free RoundUp herbicide to farmers who use the company's new RoundUp Ready
>(herbicide tolerant) maize seed.
>In growing numbers, American farmers resent being guinea pigs for GMO
>crops that nobody wants to buy or eat. An uncharacteristically bold press
>release issued by the American Corn Growers Association last week said
>that "GMOs have become the albatross around the neck of farmers" and urged
>its members to plant non-GM seed. The Corn Growers struck at the guts of
>the issue when it asked, "How does the monopolistic practice of a handful
>of companies controlling the entire GMO process effect the future of U.S.
>food production?"
>Reaping what you sow: "It's too soon to declare that GMOs are dead,"
>cautions RAFI's Hope Shand. The fight for food is just beginning. The Gene
>Giants may soon become bargain buys for bigger fish - the food processors
>or insurance companies. "When Terminator technology was unveiled 18 months
>ago, we were all shocked by the extravagance of corporate greed and the
>specter of self-destructing, suicide seeds. Now, GMO markets are
>self-destructing. Maybe the Gene Giants are reaping what they sow," said
>RAFI's newly updated chart, Seed Industry Consolidation: Who Owns Whom?
>will be available on RAFI's web site,
>For more information, contact:  Hope Shand, RAFI, tel: 919 960-5223,
>                            Pat Mooney,  RAFI, tel: 204 453-5259,
>RAFI, the Rural Advancement Foundation International, is an international
>civil society organization headquartered in Canada.  RAFI is dedicated to
>the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and to the socially
>responsible development of technologies useful to rural societies.  RAFI
>is concerned about the loss of agricultural biodiversity, and the impact
>of intellectual property on farmers and food security.
>Hope Shand
>Research Director
>Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
>***  NOTE: New address, phone and fax:
>Tel/Fax: 919 960-5223
>Hope Shand
>118 E. Main Street, Rm. 211
>Carrboro, NC 27510  USA

- Hey but don't get depressed COME JOIN THE - 

Seeds of Resistance 

Seeds of Resistance
Cambridge 6-8 September

Fancy planting some unusual variety of beetroot seeds or opposing the
power of global agribusiness?
Join us for this event to celebrate diversity and challenge uniformity.

We are an alternative vision to the official World Seed Conference.

While institutions and corporations alike further their domination of the
seed industry, plant breeding, farmers rights, and biodiversity generally,

We will be building links, sharing ideas, eating organic food, exchanging
seeds, painting banners, creating a grassroots movement to ensure a
localised food Revolution.

Monday 6th will be inspiration and information packed workshops and
discussions, while Tuesday we'll prepare for an event on the Wednesday to
take some creative action together.

If you're interested in coming BRING SEEDS, action ideas, information for
stalls or an appropriate workshop.

For more info contact: 

WEN 0171 247 3327 
Seeds of Resistance 0181 374 9677 or 0966 464606 
email <>

        * * * * *

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food.
Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible."
Phil Angell,  Director of Corporate Communications, Monsanto

        * * * * *

Women's Environmental Network
   TestTube Harvest Campaign

87 Worship Street
London EC2A 2BE
t: +44 (0)171 247 3327
f: +44 (0)171 247 4740

the Seeds of Resistance is set up as a positive alternative to the following
industry conference:

1999 World Seed Conference: 
6 - 8 September 1999, Cambridge UK.

This meeting is co-organised by ISTA, FIS/ASSINSEL, OECD and UPOV.
For Conference Details & Registration Forms go to:
WWW: <>
WWW: <>