Information on Prices of Genetically Modified Seeds in the United States and Argentina

RCED/NSIAD-00-55: Published: Jan 21, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 2000.

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Lawrence J. Dyckman
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the pricing of genetically modified seeds, focusing on the: (1) prices of Roundup Ready soybean seeds and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn seeds in the United States and Argentina; and (2) major reasons for the price differences, if any, between the two countries for these seeds.

GAO noted that: (1) in 1998, available data indicate that the ranges of commercial prices for popular varieties of Roundup Ready soybean seeds were higher in the United States than in Argentina; (2) however, for popular varieties of Bt corn seeds there were no clear differences in prices; (3) since GAO found price differences for Roundup Ready soybean seeds and not for Bt corn seeds, GAO focused its analysis of reasons for price differences on Roundup Ready soybean seeds; (4) GAO identified two primary reasons for price differences: (a) greater control over patented seed technology in the United States; and (b) extensive black market sales of soybean seeds in Argentina; (5) Roundup Ready soybean seeds are patented in the United States, they are not patented in Argentina; (6) among other things, patents give a company more control in setting prices and restricting a products use; (7) for example, farmers in the United States are required to pay technology fees for the use of Roundup Ready soybean seeds and are not allowed to replant the seeds; this is not the case in Argentina; (8) a strong black market for seeds in Argentina has also contributed to lower prices in that country; (9) an estimated 25 to 50 percent of the soybean seeds grown in Argentina are sold in violation of Argentina's seed law; and (10) the law was designed, among other things, to protect plant breeders intellectual property rights by requiring that all seeds be certified prior to sale.

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