The Shrinking Business of Garden Seed

By Shila Patel

Although the home garden seed business constitutes a very small segment of the international seed industry, the recent flurry of mergers, acquisitions, and cross-shareholding in the seed trade has resulted in a consolidation that ultimately affects home gardeners. With the acquisition of seed companies, many newly minted life sciences giants are focusing attention on producing hybrid and genetically engineered seed for widespread agricultural use. In the future, this will very likely result in decreased interest in developing new varieties for the tiny home garden market.

The Rural Advancement Foundation International, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture and biodiversity, reports that the top 10 international seed companies now control 30 percent of the world's $24 billion commercial seed trade, an increase of 25 percent in two years. These companies include Pioneer Hi-Bred, the world's largest seed company and Monsanto, which spent over $8 billion in the past three years to acquire seed and agricultural biotechnology companies. Also among the top 10 are Novartis, a Swiss company that now owns some formerly independent American companies (Northrup King, Rogers Seed Company, Funk Seeds, and Vaughn Seeds) and Groupe Limagrain, which counts Ferry-Morse and Harris Moran among its 49 international subsidiaries.

Formerly managing editor at the National Gardening Association, Shila Patel is currently garden editor for

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