Following recent mergers just three giant agro-chemical companies dominate commercial plant breeding and global seed markets, the outcome of an unprecedented process of consolidation in the seed sector. Driven and enabled by the emergence of genomics-based technologies and the worldwide diffusion of strict intellectual property rights, especially patents and patent like restrictions, over seed material, an oligopolistic seed sector has emerged.
This new business models focus their breeding efforts on large commercial seed markets, and on commercially significant production constraints. Other production constraints, minor corps, marginal agro-ecological environments, ´niche´ markets, such as for agro-ecological production, and the needs of small farmers (the majority of the worlds’ farmers) are neglected. This is resulting in diminishing crop diversity, unsuitable seed varieties (for many farmers), and a much narrower variety of agricultural systems and practices that the seed sector is able to support. Seed market concentration is also resulting in the decline of domestic technological capabilities in seed breeding, in some countries, and therefore of agricultural autonomy. In the long term, these trends on food security and sovereignty, agricultural sustainability, and rural socio-economic and crop diversity, would impede the emergence of more sustainable and just food systems.
In Argentina, historically an agricultural producer with an important domestic seed industry and public sector breeding capability, the same trends are evident. Furthermore, as marketing and distribution channels are increasingly dominated by large firms, independent private and public breeders have difficulty reaching farmers, and existing capacities are being wasted. The seed requirements of small farmers are almost entirely unmet, whilst farmers working in agro-ecological production, must informally try and develop suitable varieties within their own networks. That is why we consider it necessary to find an alternative to protect the unhindered circulation of germplasm – the genetic material of seeds – from future restrictions, and promote a network for collaborative breeding.