NSAC report says farmers are harmed by declining public seed supply

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



Oct. 31, 2014, WASHINGTON - The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released an analysis of the U.S. seed supply, stating that consolidation in the seed industry has negatively impacted the development of new varieties, limited farmer choice, and decreased the genetic diversity of our global seed supply. 

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The analysis is the summary of proceedings of the Summit on Seeds and Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture, published today by the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), a farmer-based non-profit organization based in Pittsboro, NC and an NSAC member.

Among the summit members' concerns expressed in the report are:  farmers' limited access to seed, the narrowing of our country's agricultural plant and animal genetic diversity, consolidation within the seed industry, the decline in public cultivar development, and how these trends are impacting farmers' abilities to confront the unprecedented challenges of climate change and global food security.

“Over the past 25 years, there has been a steady decline in investment in public sector breeding programs housed primarily within our nation's land grant university system and USDA research facilities,” says Juli Obudzinski, Senior Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “This slow atrophy of public funding to support improved plant varieties means that farmers have been left with fewer and fewer seed choices over the years and are ill-prepared to meet 21st century needs.”

The proceedings released today capture the discussion from a two-day summit held in Washington, DC in March 2014. The summit included about 35 breeders, researchers, farmers, academics, and representatives of germplasm banks and non-profit organizations.

NSAC and RAFI are both members of the Seeds and Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture Coalition, a collaborative that advocates for increased support for public sector plant and animal breeding research.

To view the report findings and recommendations, including developing a national plan to restore funding for public plant variety funding, go here.

The proceedings include 8 scientific papers authored by breeders and researchers, including Bill Tracy, a sweet corn breeder with the University of Wisconsin; Major Goodman, a corn breeder with North Carolina State University; Michael Mazourek, a vegetable breeder with Cornell University; David Ellis, the head of the Genebank Unit at the International Potato Center in Peru; and Charles Brummer, the Senior Vice President Director of Forage Improvement at the Noble Foundation.

Former USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan also presented a paper on opportunities for increasing political support for this issue.

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