Today’s seed industry is dominated by a handful of companies. Approximately 60% of the market is controlled by just four companies.
Many of the seeds planted by farmers are controlled by international property rights or patents, that limit how they can be used. Court cases have centred around whether farmers have the right to save and reuse seeds for future harvests.
In this programme we’ll chart the history of the seed industry, from the 19th century, when the United States government sent seeds in the post to farmers for free, to the growth of genetics in the 20th century which set the foundations for today’s market.
Ruth Alexander is joined by Courtney Fullilove, Associate Professor of History at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, United States, and author of ‘Profit of the Earth: the global seeds of American Agriculture'; Frank Terhorst, Head of Strategy and Sustainability in the Crop Sciences Division of Bayer Global, the biggest seed company in the world; Michael Fakhri, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and Professor at the Oregon University School of Law in the United States; and Dr Tamene Yohannes, from the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute in Ethiopia, which works with community seed banks around the country.
Presented by Ruth Alexander.
Produced by Beatrice Pickup.
(Image: a man holding a pile of seeds in two hands. Credit: Getty/BBC)