Tomorrow, the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Agriculture (USDA) conclude a year-long listening tour focused on competition concerns in agriculture. The meeting, hosted in Washington, DC, will focus on price margins, the difference between what consumers pay for food and what farmers receive. Here’s the agenda.
If you plan to attend, please provide public testimony on seed concentration. Or simply drop an email to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The agencies are still taking public comments.
Below are some short talking points. You can also view OSA’s comments from earlier this year.
— The agencies should broaden their investigation beyond the biotech trait disputes that received much of the attention before and during the March 2010 meeting in Iowa. (Here’s an overview of that meeting.)
— The agencies need to explore the impacts of concentrated ownership of germplasm and the effects patents have on facilitating market advantage for the largest firms and inhibiting important research in the private and public sector.
— USDA must recognize and increase support for public plant breeding programs in order to return to a more competitive marketplace that serves the diverse needs of American farmers. The public sector has been negatively impacted by concentration and the liberal use of patents that restrict basic research, and heavily rely on research funds from the largest seed firms.
OSA is encouraged by the agencies’ efforts to investigate competition concerns and hope to see meaningful action. We also hope the agencies will host a meeting in 2011 that focuses solely on seed given the complex issues farmers and independent seed companies and plant breeders face. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that concentration is “a national security matter.” We couldn’t agree more.