DA launches probe into GM corn seeds ‘price fixing’


The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it has started investigating allegations that traders and multinationals are manipulating the price of genetically modified (GM) corn seeds.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he has instructed two DA officials to compare the prices of GM corn seeds in the local market with those sold in other countries.

Piñol made the directive after he received reports that GM seeds are being sold at P6,000 per bag. A corn farmer needs about two bags of seeds costing P12,000
for 1 hectare.

“They [traders] are selling it at a very high price right now. It seems that there is connivance among GM seed producers, because they have the same prices,” the agriculture chief said in an interview with reporters on Tuesday.

The DA would try to establish that there is price fixing or connivance among GM corn seeds sellers, which include some multinationals. Piñol said the DA would finish the investigation by next week.

He said the DA would forward its findings to the Philippine Competition Commission.

“The moment we are able to establish that they are really selling their seeds at a high price compared to other markets and they have monopolized it, we will file charges against them,” Piñol said.

“We can seek damages in behalf of the corn farmers. We will have verifiable complaints,” he added.

Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PhilMaize) President Roger V. Navarro welcomed the investigation initiated by the DA to determine transparency in pricing and to determine if companies are taking advantage of farmers.

“If multinationals are not hiding anything and are transparent, they will not be afraid of this investigation,” Navarro told the BusinessMirror.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) reported last year that total hectarage planted with biotech maize in the Philippines declined by 21 percent to 642,000 hectares, from 812,000 hectares last year.

This is despite a 10.42-percent expansion in the country’s total corn area in 2017, driven by favorable weather conditions. Total area planted with corn last year reached 1.378 million hectares, from the 1.248 million hectares recorded in 2016.

The reduction in the area planted with authorized Bt corn seeds resulted in an 18.6-percentage point decline in the adoption rate of the technology to 46.5 percent in 2017, from 65.1 percent in 2016.

“Biotech maize area and adoption rate decreased because according to industry analysts, there was a proliferation of counterfeit biotech maize seeds,”
ISAAA said.

Seed industry stakeholders estimate that about 10 percent of the Bt corn seeds sold in the domestic market are counterfeit.

Image Credits: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg