Biotechnology:

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

T-RCED/NSIAD-00-228: Published: Jun 29, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the prices of genetically modified seeds, focusing on : (1) the prices of Roundup Ready soybeans and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn seeds in the United States and Argentina; and (2) major reasons for any identified price differences between the two countries.

GAO noted that: (1) the ranges of commercial prices in 1998 for popular varieties of Roundup Ready soybean seeds were higher in the United States than in Argentina; (2) at the same time, GAO found no clear price differences for Bt corn seeds; (3) GAO identified two primary reasons for the price differences in Roundup Ready soybean seeds; (4) first, there is greater control over patented seed technology in the United States; (5) Roundup Ready soybean seeds are patented in the United States, but not in Argentina; (6) among other things, patents give a company more control in setting prices and restricting a product's use; (7) for example, farmers in the United States are required to pay technology fees for using Roundup Ready soybean seeds and are not allowed to save and replant the seeds--this is not the case in Argentina; (8) second, a strong black market for seeds in Argentina has also contributed to lower prices in that country--an estimated 25 to 50 percent of the soybean seeds grown in Argentina are sold in violation of Argentina's seed law; (9) the law is designed, among other things, to protect the plant breeders' intellectual property rights by requiring that all seeds be certified prior to sale; and (10) in addition to the two primary reasons GAO identified for seed price differences, other factors relating to farmers' willingness to pay for seeds and seed companies' marketing strategies and production costs contribute to price variations.

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