Intellectual Property, Concentration and the Limits of Antitrust in the Biotech Seed Industry, Comments, Agricultural and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy
Biotech seeds have become an enormously-valuable part of the food supply in the US and abroad. A substantial portion of soybeans, corn, cotton and other agricultural products grown in the US are derived from genetically-modified seeds. The genetic traits that give these seeds their value—traits that confer resistance to herbicide and high yields, for example—are often developed by large agribusiness companies, with enormous research and development investments. The process is technologically-advanced, time- and money-intensive, a risky investment, and subject to various layers of regulation. The process of developing a new seed variety can take 15 years and require hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. Regulations from the USDA, the FDA and the EPA can slow or halt the process, and international trade regulations (particularly from countries that ban or severely restrict importation of GMOs) complicate the control and the commercialization of the final products.