Reality-Check
May 13, 2014
Myth #1: Monsanto controls the world’s food supply

by Brandon Mitchener

Today, we’ll begin a series of blog posts looking at some of the most common myths about Monsanto. We’ve also collected these in a pocket-sized Monsanto Myths & Facts leaflet that you can find here.

Myth #1: There’s a popular myth propagated by certain Web-based petition sites that Monsanto controls the world’s food supply, or wants to. This is a myth, folks. Really!

While it’s true that Monsanto has a healthy business in a few crops such as maize, rapeseed, cotton and soybeans in some countries, our seeds actually represent less than five percent of the seeds planted worldwide. Five percent. Hardly what most people would consider control!

What a lot of people don’t realize is that about two-thirds of agricultural seed planted globally is non-commercial, farmer-saved seed. This is what many people call “traditional” farming, and is what many small-scale, subsistence farmers do because they can’t afford to buy seeds. Reliable statistics on such farming are hard to come by because these seeds aren’t bought and sold and often aren’t captured in any national statistics except as a negative: crops under cultivation that can’t be attributed to someone else’s sales. 

So only about one-third of the world’s seed market is actually a commercial seed market served by a company like Monsanto. According to a recent report by Research and Markets, the commercial seeds market was $44,122.2 million in 2012 and is projected to reach $85,237.6 million by 2018, growing at an annual growth rate of 12.1% from 2013 to 2018.  According to another report prepared by and for the European Parliament, Monsanto accounts for 21.8% of the global commercial seed market–but again, that’s not the same as the global seed market because of all the farmer-saved seed in crops such as wheat, rice, etc.

Of that commercial seed market, two-thirds of the seed volume comes from private plant breeding programs. One-third comes from national or public institutions. Overall, more than 7,500 separate seed companies supply the commercial seed market. Moreover, Monsanto broadly licenses our trait technologies to a number of other seed companies around the world, which means farmers generally have quite a variety of choices to access the technology they want.

[If you’ve heard any other stories about Monsanto that you suspect aren’t true, check out our other blog entries in this series or download our pocket-sized Myths & Facts leaflet, which is available in several languages.]

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