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Effects on Independent Scientific Research and Public Health

Center for Food Safety

Increasingly, seed research and development is dictated by private agrichemical companies – even in the public sector.  The combination of reduced government funding of university research with the increased influence of agrichemical industry consolidation and market concentration has inhibited the scope and substance of scientific research in agriculture.  A few examples illustrate:

  • Pioneer prohibited researchers from publishing data on the near 100% mortality of lady beetles that had fed on a variety of their transgenic corn.[1]
  • According to the scientists writing to EPA, the current patent-based restrictions “unduly limit” the provision of independent scientific data to regulators.[2]
  • Findings from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service show that fewer players result in less innovation.  As the industry has become more concentrated, research has “dropped or slowed” and those companies that survived consolidation are “sponsoring less research relative to the size of their individual markets than when more companies were involved. . . .  Also, fewer companies developing crops and marketing seeds may translate into fewer varieties offered.”[3]

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[1] Emily Waltz, Under Wraps, 27 Nature Biotech. 882 (2009).

[2] Id. at 880; Comment  on Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel Meeting Pertaining to Resistance Risks from Using a Seed Mix Refuge with Pioneer’s Optimum®  AcreMaxTM 1 Corn Rootworm-Protected Corn (hereafter “FIFRA SAP Comment”), http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0836-0043. 

[3] Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo & David Schimmelpfennig, Econ. Research Serv., U.S. Dep’t of  Agric.,  Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Effort?, Amber Waves, Feb. 2004, at 19.

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