Commentary on how use of biotechnology and genetic engineering in agriculture impacts the global food supply—all from control of the lowly seed -
Over the past 30 years, the seed industry has experienced considerable consolidation. Now, according to The Farmer to Farmer Campaign on a Genetic Engineering, only 10 U.S. companies account for over two-thirds of the world’s seed for major crops, including corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton. The same study notes that economists have determined an industry loses its “competitive character when the concentration ratio of the top four firms...is 40 percent or higher.” The top four biotechnology or biotech companies in the industry alone account for approximately 43 percent of the global seed market, which notably includes both genetically modified (GM or GMOs) and conventional seeds. With this decrease in competition, seed prices are rising and conventional seeds are quickly being replaced by reduced varieties of GM versions.
Over the past two decades, biotech companies have acquired hundreds of patents for seeds throughout the world, the majority of which have been genetically engineered to be resistant to certain herbicides and pesticides also sold by those same companies. The genetic modification of seeds is not a change that can ever occur in nature because, unlike naturally evolving organisms, non-organic matter is spliced into the seed gene. The risks to human health and the environment from this approach are unknown and unpredictable. It is known, however, that these GM seeds reproduce with non-GM plants. The resulting crossbred plants have quickly begun erasing the world's natural resource in seed. Plant variety, too, is reduced. By crossbreeding with non-GM plants in the wild, genetically engineered traits are changing nature at an increasing rate. Once GM seeds are released into the environment, it is impossible to retrieve them.
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