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Rising food prices may start with seeds

March 18, 2010

Full Article at: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/11/business/la-fi-food-monopoly12-2010mar12?pg=3

For 40 years, farmer Todd Leake and his family have battled bitter cold, hungry pests and a short growing season to coax soybeans out of their fields in eastern North Dakota.

The one thing they never had to fight for, though, was their seeds.

A decade ago, salesmen from as many as 50 seed companies would compete for their dollars. Each would promise healthier plants, richer yields or a better discount.

Today the Leakes have little choice: There are four seed companies in their area, and all sell seeds that include genetic traits patented and licensed by Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed firm.

“There’s basically nothing else available,” said Leake, 48. “You have to use their seeds and pay their prices.”

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The farm community — which produces more than $80 billion annually in soybeans and corn — has been pressuring lawmakers to investigate why it’s costing them so much more to grow their crops. U.S. farmers spent about $17 billion on seeds last year, up 56% from 2006, the USDA said.

Yet over the last decade, the number of independent seed companies in the U.S. has shrunk to fewer than 100 from more than 300, said Bill Wenzel, national director of the nonprofit Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, a network of 34 farm groups.

Today, four companies account for 50% of the world’s proprietary seeds for major crops.

Full Article at: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/11/business/la-fi-food-monopoly12-2010mar12?pg=3

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