The seed industry is crucial to agricultural development. Seed was perhaps the most important form in which the technology of the green revolution was transferred to farmers. As the new biotechnology moves from the laboratory to the field and seeds incorporate functions such as the ability to resist pests and generate nutrients that were previously supplied by other industries, the seed industry may become even more important. After several decades in which seed policies were relatively noncontroversial and largely unacknowledged in the literature on agricultural development, the seed industry became the center of a number of debates in the 1980s. In the international arena the debate centered on how to preserve the genetic resources of plants, who owned these. resources, and how the access of poor countrIes to such resources could be ensured. At the national level declining government budgets, pressure from donors and the local agribusinesses, and the failure of some government seed corporations are forcing policymakers to privatize the seed sector. At the same time concern is growing about the ability of the local private sector to supply adequate seed to farmers.This paper is based on the available literature on the seed industry in developing countries. Chapter 1 lists some of the main issues and definitions. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the world seed industry. Chapter 3 presents a framework for analyzing the issues and policies of the seed industry. Chapter 4 reviews what is known about government seed policies. The conclusion summarizes the policy lessons contained in the literature and poses some of the major questions that need to be researched further.
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)