RAFI has a long history of work promoting agricultural biodiversity, public cultivar development, on-farm plant breeding, farmers’ rights to save seeds and breeders’ rights to share and improve germplasm—all aimed at strengthening on-farm resilience through regionally adapted crops that can diversify our agricultural systems, especially in the face of climate change. This merger represents the exact opposite of what is most needed at this critical point in our history. We have witnessed and tracked this trend for more than 30 years as the industry has gone from thousands of “mom and pop” independent seed companies to now only three or four companies controlling the vast majority of our world’s commercial seed supply. This is a recipe for food insecurity and further uprooting of farmers from the land.
“We’ve witnessed the disastrous macro impacts of ever-increasing, concentrated private seed industry ownership,” said Michael Sligh, Just Foods program director at RAFI and founding Chair of the National Organic Standards Board. “This trend of consolidation has exacerbated the decline in public support for cultivar development, abandonment of minor crops, increased genetic uniformity of major crops, led to declines in regional seed adaptation and led to much reduced localized farmer access to seed choices. These factors drive up the price of seeds, so what was once a very small portion of farmers’ production costs is now a major cost factor. Farmers feel this pressure, and so do consumers and our environment.”
RAFI was very involved in the DOJ Hearings regarding agricultural concentration and monopolies. We remain convinced that our antitrust laws must be reformed in order to restore competition in agriculture. This competition is key and at the heart of any meaningful rural revitalization.