Does biotechnology allow the
large corporations to control food supply?
The patenting of plant varieties and technologies associated with the
production of new varieties has made agriculture and food production
attractive to multinational corporations since they can now protect their
investments. They are indeed likely to dominate agriculture and food
Although it might be a cause of concern, agriculture is not unique in
this regard. There are now only two North American owned automobile
manufacturers. Earlier this century there were several hundred.
Internationally there are now about ten in all. The same is true for other
industries such as pharmaceuticals and even the media. The classical case
of this is Microsoft and software. Whether such developments are good or
bad is a matter for debate but it is clearly the way global commerce has
developed in the 1990’s.
There must obviously be a means of ensuring a fair and equitable food
supply for all nations and there must be international agreements to
ensure this. Government control of agriculture and food supplies has not
proven, in the past, to be an effective means of providing food and the
experience of farms in Russia, Eastern Europe and China leaves little
faith in the ability of government controlled agriculture to supply even
the needs of their own citizens.
It should be noted that some companies have dominated some areas of
agriculture long before the advent of biotechnology apparently without any
major problems. Pioneer Hi-Bred has had almost 50 % of the corn seed
market for many years because of the production of superior hybrid
varieties. This seems not to have caused any major concerns and
improvements in the corn crop have not been hindered.