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Privatization of hybrid rice industry

Large private companies are increasingly playing a dominant role in hybrid rice production, often with the blessing and support of national governments.

NISTPASS writes,

"Today the private sector is taking control of rice plant breeding and the rice seed market. In recent years, the big multinational seed corporations, such as Bayer and DuPont, have been investing billions of dollars to get into the rice seed market, with nearly all of this money flowing into hybrid rice. In 2007, all of the top 5 global seed companies announced major moves in Asia’s hybrid rice seed industry. And alongside these major multinational players, there are a number of Asian based companies that are active in the hybrid rice seed market, such as CP, SL Agritech and Shandong Seeds. China’s international hybrid rice activities are almost always led by private Chinese seed companies, and mostly often by one company – LPHT. Over the years, with the support and blessing of the government, this stateowned company has grown into a major multinational corporation, with 26 subsidiaries, and a listing on the Shenzhen stock exchange, with a large stake now owned by the world’s fourth- largest seed company, Vilmorin Limagrain of France.

Public sector programs are increasingly turning to partnerships with the private sector for funding, and there is less and less difference between the two. IRRI (International Rice Research Institute in India) has been leading this merger of public and private agendas. Last year, it launched its Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC), a platform for partnerships with the private sector in hybrid rice that unifies research and development between the public and private sectors and ensures that a percentage of royalties are channeled back to IRRI. The national rice programs are taking the same route."

Implications

Private sector involvement, with government support, and the massive amounts of investment changes the industry in a number of important ways, particularly through the logic of markets and profit. The licensing model of hybrid seeds encourages the transformation of farmers into consumers: “It’s the fact that farmers cannot save seeds from these varieties, thus guaranteeing the companies a captive.” Economies of scale helps drive mechanization of rice production (see http://rfsearchlight.clearsignals.org/node/273). NISTPASS writes, “the development of new source of rice supply became a race for many nations, government, companies to acquire new land areas.” In summary, "The idea of using hybrid rice technology to feed humanity has certainly paid off for the companies behind it: they are getting a huge return from seeds and agrochemical sales…It is a big business that has little to do with agricultural development.”

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Sources:

NISTPASS, Nov 2010 page 5, 6:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/NISTPASS_Nov2010.pdf#page=5

SeedQuest, “DuPont partners with Indonesian Center for Rice Research to advance hybrid rice,” March 16 2009, http://www.seedquest.com/News/releases/2009/march/2548
2.html

Why hybrid rice continues to fail Asia's small farmers.
http://www.grain.org/o/?id=100