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Reweaving the support systems of world seed business in one paper , I found attitude of some EU countries quite interesting. In 1980’s, they have decided to support firstly those seed companies, working autogam plants, for 25 years. The state which provides credit, scientific consultancy, expert, infrastructure and hardware support in the legal arrangements, especially the tax, has contributed greatly to the formation of the companies those days. As one of the most prominent sector of agriculture, seed business had found different support in each country.

In spring 2014, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development requested an economic document on “EU Seed and Plant Production Material Market: Companies and Market Shares” from “Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies European Parliament”. And a report comes out with Guillaume RAGONNAUD’s signature.

According the report, as of 2012, the world seed sector has an economic value of US $ 57 billion. US $ 45 billion is reflected in the trade (US $ 12 billion is the seed of the farmer’s own product). 27% of trade related amount belongs to US, 22% to China and 20% to the EU.

The world seed market grew by 76% from the year 2005 to 2012, while the growth in the EU seed sector remained at 45%. In the figure, growth of domestic seed markets (DSM) of leading European countries for the mentioned period are compered and has been observed that Spain and Holland experienced the largest increase above 100% whereas the UK shows a 20% contraction. German and Italian seed market lag behind the world average (76%) with only 13% and 14% growth.

EU seed companies have larger distribution measured in company size, number of workers and number of employees, product variety and seed production areas. About 3% of the 7,000 firms are outside Europe. The numbers of employees in the sector are nearly 50.000, of which 10.000 are foreign.

According to an EU-wide study, plant breeding innovations in Europe over the past 15 years have resulted in various benefits for food production, economic growth, environmental protection etc.

The study, entitled “The economic, social and environmental value of plant breeding in the European Union” based on a report of the “European Technology Platform Plants for the Future” and finds:

• Higher yields: plant breeding has contributed around 74% of total productivity growth since 2000, a yield increase equivalent to 1.24% per year;
• Economic growth: genetic improvement has added more than €14 billion to the EU’s GDP, including €8 billion to the agricultural economy;
• Improved farm incomes: 1.2 million farm workers in Europe earn €7,000 more per year;
• Increased food supply: improved crop varieties have produced extra calories to feed up to 200 million more people;
• Biodiversity and habitats: Without plant breeding innovation in the EU an additional 19 million ha of farmland would be needed to maintain crop production levels;
• Reduced GHG emissions: Plant breeding advances have supported a 3.4 billion tone reduction in CO2 emissions over the past 15 years.

The chief executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders Ltd, Dr. Penny Maplestone, makes some interesting observations:
“This study is the first of its kind to quantify the contribution of European plant breeding innovation, not only in supporting the productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of EU crop production, but also in securing wider policy objectives on issues such as food security, climate change and biodiversity preservation. But future innovation in EU plant breeding cannot be taken for granted, and will depend on continued public sector investment in relevant plant science research and an effective framework of IP protection, as well as a supportive regulatory environment.”
“On key issues such as GMOs and novel breeding techniques, for example, EU decision-making has become highly politicized and unpredictable. The findings of this study should serve as a wake-up call to Europe’s policy-makers that fostering a science-based and enabling regulatory environment for plant breeding is an important investment for the economy, the environment and our future food security.”

Unlikely seed markets in the rest of the world, the EU market is focusing to conventional seed market (i.e. non-GM). Despite leading seed expert opinions around the importance of biotechnologies as the key driver in the global seed industry, the EU seems to be ignoring the rapid increase in transgenic plantations in the world, which has reached to 185 million hectares, representing 13% of words crop area.

Negative approach of EU towards transgenes has brought numbers of alternation in seed sector. For example some units of few companies have mowed outside of the EU. Many EU seed companies have formed partnerships with international biotechnology firms. On the other hand, in the year 2016 four EU countries namely Spain, Portugal, Czechia and Slovakia have planted 150,000 hectares of transgenic corn. Actually EU countries are importing yearly 30 million ton GMO soybean. And still EU regulations are against genetic engineered crops. Interpretation of these contradicting facts seems to be quite uneasy for man-in-the-street

It has been estimated that, world seed market will reach US$113.28 Billion by 2022, including farmer saved seed. In 2016, the estimated global market value of biotech crops was US$15.8 billion, representing 35% of the US$45 billion global commercial seed market. The world seed market has increased three folds from 1985 to today. In the last five years, the transgenic market increased by 22% whiles the conventional seed market by only 5%. For countries looking to get a piece of the future seed market, it seems rejecting GMO would make their chances much slimmer.

Nazimi Açıkgöz

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