Criminals also recognize the value of expensive seeds

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Combating illegal seed practices high on the agenda at ISF World Seed Congress

Concerns about replicating chip machines are valid, but for the seed industry, the theft of intellectual property and the offering of counterfeit products are also significant risks. This is according to Marco van Leeuwen, chairman of the International Seed Federation, as reported in the Algemeen Dagblad.

The sector grapples with issues such as counterfeit packaging containing inferior vegetable seeds, brown bags containing unfiltered and illegally propagated seeds, or even direct theft at breeding companies.”All sorts of illicit activities are occurring worldwide,” he states in the newspaper, “where unscrupulous individuals often bypass phytosanitary regulations, evade taxes, and employ illegal labor. Although we lack hard data, there is a growing impression that such activities are on the rise.”

The more valuable the seed (a kilo of tomato seeds sometimes exceeds the price of gold, reaching up to 70,000 euros per kilo), the more lucrative the criminal business model becomes, especially given the limited controls.

“And that’s concerning when you consider that Dutch breeders invest 700 million euros annually in research and development – sometimes up to 30 percent of their turnover – and export up to 5 billion euros,” Marco emphasizes. “The economic losses are significant. What worries us more are the farmers and growers. They do not receive the varieties they were expecting, leading to diseases, reduced yields, and shorter shelf life.”

This situation undermines food security. However, there is a glimmer of hope: many countries, including Italy, are now enforcing stricter controls. Furthermore, ‘illegal seed practices’ are a key focus at the upcoming congress.

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