Seeds, Patents and Power: The Shifting Foundation of Our Food System

49 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2014

See all articles by James Matson

James Matson

Independent

Minli Tang

City University London, The City Law School

Sarah Wynn

Independent

Date Written: November 1, 2014

Abstract

Our food supply rests on a foundation of agricultural seed. As the world races to meet soaring food demand, the development and control of this fundamental genetic resource will be of critical concern to the entire human community. Seed, once treated as a shared public good and natural resource, is now subject to strict patent control. Patents have encouraged investment and research, but have also facilitated concentrated private ownership. A highly concentrated seed industry already controls much of the U.S agricultural seed resource.

This paper examines the history, legal context, structure and practices of the U.S. corn and soybean seed industry, which may become the model for other crop sectors and world markets. It analyzes the relationship between seed patent law and antitrust law, and considers the antitrust policy challenges posed by the new seed industry. It calls for systematic study and monitoring of the seed industry, and offers some starting points and an analytical framework. This paper also poses some basic questions about the long-term future of agricultural seed.

Keywords: food, seed, GMO, patent, antitrust, agriculture, technology, competition, genetic, resource

JEL Classification: D23, D42, D43, H41, K21, L11, L12, L13, L14, L22, L23, L41, L42, L66, O13, Q13, Q16, Q18, Q20, Q28

Suggested Citation

Matson, James and Tang, Minli and Wynn, Sarah, Seeds, Patents and Power: The Shifting Foundation of Our Food System (November 1, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2525120 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2525120

Minli Tang

City University London, The City Law School ( email )

London, EC1V OHB
United Kingdom

Sarah Wynn

Independent ( email )

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