The global seed market, competition law and intellectual property rights: Untying the Gordian knot

The paper explores the competition dynamics of the global seed market. It documents the growth strategies of the major seed companies, in particular their M&A activity and their reliance on complex intellectual property strategies in order to offer a one stop shop solution to farmers. Recent merger activity in this sector (the Monsanto bid to buy Syngenta, the DuPont and Dow merger deal, ChemChina’s bid to buy Syngenta) illustrates its rapid transformation from an already concentrated industry to a tight oligopoly on a global scale. The increasing global consolidation of this industry raises new challenges for competition law enforcement authorities dealing with the emergence of new powerful actors at the factor of production (input) level, in view of the broader concerns animating public policy in the food sector and the existence of a nexus of international commitments for biodiversity, sustainability, the right to food etc. By exploring this under-studied but fascinating area of competition law enforcement we open the debate over the inclusion of broader public interest concerns in competition policy and the consideration of its distributive impact from a global perspective.

[1] I. Introduction 1. The food supply chain is generally depicted as composed by three main levels: agricultural production, industrial processing and wholesale or retail distribution. At a closer look, however, the food supply chain becomes more complex, involving a number of other stages and links that add value to the chain either in the form of goods or services inputs. The food industry is heavily dependent on scarce resources like arable land, water and genetic resources (a limited biodiversity). At each level of the supply chain, firms as well as other organizational forms perform specific activities supplying goods or services. Moreover, at the same level there may be one or more firms performing the same or complementary activities, adding specific value [2] I. Introduction

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  • University College London
  • Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
  • Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development (Moscow)


Ioannis Lianos, Dmitry Katalevsky, Alexey Ivanov, The global seed market, competition law and intellectual property rights: Untying the Gordian knot, May 2016, Concurrences N° 2-2016, Art. N° 78807, pp. 62-80

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