What is in this article?:
- Concentration in several global agricultural input industries has risen significantly: crop seed, agricultural chemical, animal health, animal genetics/breeding, and farm machinery.
- The largest agricultural input firms are responsible for a large and growing share of global agricultural R&D, and higher input prices paid by farmers partially reflect the higher quality of inputs created through private-sector R&D.
The growing concentration in agricultural input industries raises a number of issues. One is the inherent tension between public policies regulating intellectual property rights (IPR) and market competition. While antitrust laws restrict firms from exercising monopoly power, some exceptions are made for intellectual property rights over new innovations. However, antitrust rules may still apply to how firms license their intellectual property to other firms.
Another issue is whether under the current market and policy environment there are significant economies of scale in crop and animal biotechnology, implying that only very large firms can hope to compete effectively in these sectors. This might mean there is a significant barrier to entry for new firms and a potential loss of new innovations, particularly from SMEs. On the other hand, the global reach of the large, multinational agricultural input firms could speed up the rate of international technology transfer and help to close the productivity gaps between regions and countries. The rate of transfer will be influenced by international trade agreements and how countries regulate and protect IPR in new agricultural innovations, especially those involving genetically modified organisms.
Finally, public investments in research can be an important enabler of market competition. Examples include public provision of elite parent material for crop/livestock breeding companies and the basic scientific tools necessary for commercial development using genomics and molecular biology.