The commercial end of seed production has undergone a tremendous change in the last 40-50 years. At one time, small, competitive family owned companies dominated the seed industry. I remember my father selling non-hybrid soybean seed right out of our storage bin in the 1970's. Now the industry is dominated by transnational pharmaceutical/chemical corporations. This began by corporations buying small seed companies and merging. The process continues because farmers are encouraged to forsake the old open pollinated varieties in favour of hybrids with more production. Thus each year, farmers buy their seed instead of replanting from last years harvest. This resulted in a shift of focus as more research was done on the more profitable crops and the old heirloom varieties were dropped. Phil Howard of Michigan State University put together a visual of what has happened.
Consolidating the world wide Seed industry
Since the commercialization of transgenic crops in the mid-1990s, the sale of seeds has become dominated globally by Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta. In addition, the largest firms are increasingly networked through agreements to cross-license transgenic seed traits.
Seeds have the potential to short circuit possibilities for accumulation because once purchased they may be self-reproduced, thus bypassing the profits that could be realized if farmers continued to buy these inputs year after year [3,22]. This obstacle has been surmounted in some crops using two different strategies, biological and legal . The development of hybrid crops is an example of the biological strategy, as subsequent generations do not exhibit the same characteristics as parents, thus eliminating incentives to replant saved seeds. Higher-yielding, hybrid varieties of corn introduced in the 1930s encouraged the growth of a private corn seed industry, in place of the previously dominant on-farm and public sources.
This diagram shows you the very reasons why Down to Earth Seeds is in business. We need more heirloom seeds in the hands of individuals who are willing to plant them and/or save them for a time when they will be worth more than gold!