Seed Industry

Biowatch concerned about monopolisation of SA seed industry

18 November 2010

Biowatch South Africa, an NGO involved in promoting biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods, raised serious concerns about consolidation and emerging monopolies in the South African seed industry with the Competition Commission of South Africa in Pretoria today.

The hearings were initiated by the Competition Commission to investigate concerns raised about a proposed merger between Pannar Seeds, the largest remaining South African seed company, and Pioneer Hi-Bred, a US-held seed company, part of DuPont Incorporated.

Pioneer is one of the world's biggest seed companies with a lengthy history in South Africa. Its attempt to purchase Pannar is of concern because farmers would then be dependent on two foreign companies controlling most local seed supplies.

Monsanto, the other foreign company, purchased two major South African seed companies - Sensako and Carnia - several years ago and is now the world's largest seed company.

Monsanto and Pioneer are dominant players in the maize, soybean, wheat, barley and cotton seed supply chain. They are both heavily involved in promoting patented genetically modified (GM) crops that have sharply increased prices for local seed while reducing diversity of supply.

Pannar controls significant seed stock of organic and open pollinated seeds suitable to local and African conditions. It also has an established distribution network into Africa. There is a risk that this seed diversity will be threatened and replaced by hybrid and patented GM seeds if Pioneer is permitted to merge with Pannar.

If the merger is allowed an effective duopoly (market control by two corporations) will result. This has serious implications for seed diversity, but more importantly, for food security and sovereignty, through alienating national control of our seed stocks to overseas corporate interests.

Biowatch is convinced that the Competition Commission should not only forbid the Pioneer / Pannar merger but should also investigate local seed industry structures, cross holdings and licensing agreements between the existing major players in this industry.

For further information contact:
Glenn Ashton - 083 403 2623; ekogaia@iafrica.com
Rose Williams - 031 206 2954; rose@biowatch.org.za