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Study details results of seed 'relabling' costs to farmers

DECATUR, Ill. — Representatives of California-based Farmers Business Network (FBN) traveled to Illinois to announce the results of a national study of seed relabeling practices during the opening day of the recent 64th Farm Progress Show.

The study, which is based on 7,500 actual seed tags submitted by farmers during 2017, was unveiled in Decatur on August 29 by FBN co-founder Charles Baron and head of analytics Matt Meisner.

The results of the study may shock many farmers, according to the pair. Calling seed relabeling – when major seed manufacturers contract their technology to smaller companies that market the seed under different brand names – a $2.5 billion segment of the seed market, the FBN leaders said some farmers who submitted tags overpaid by as much as $97 per bag for corn or soybean hybrid seed varieties identical in composition to those available within their states from other, competing brands.

“One seed was found being sold by 12 different brands,” said FBN’s Megan Fallon. “Since different brands often sell identical varieties for very different prices (and) some farmers significantly overpay, not realizing that other brands sell the same variety at a lower price.”

The FBN report is available for download at

It attempts to provide clarity on what kind of seed farmers are buying, and includes a sampling and comparison of nationwide hybrid seed prices. Also included is information on how to “decode” a seed tag, and which seed companies relabel their products the most.

The $2.5 billion implication from seed relabeling affects 95 percent of U.S. farmers, according to the report. A lack of genetic diversity in the marketplace is a direct effect of seed relabeling, according to Fallon.

“The widespread practice of relabeling means the available genetic diversity on the market is far less than it would appear. It is easy and common for farmers to unknowingly purchase the same variety from multiple brands, while thinking they are buying a unique variety from each brand, thereby increasing their genetic risk,” she explained.

The FBN analysis showed that 38 percent of corn hybrids analyzed and 45 percent of soybean seed are relabeled and resold, with as many as 12 brands offering the same seed in the same state. Relabeled varieties are planted on at least 17 percent of corn and soybean acres, the analysis revealed.

The 7,500 seed tags contributed by FBN members spanned more than 2,550 unique seed products sold by 110 different seed companies. “Combined with over 10,000 unique seed invoice records, we were able to examine how common relabeling is and what its impact is on U.S. farmers,” according to Fallon.

The issuance of the FBN seed relabeling study has resulted into a number of media inquiries to the desk of Susan Mantey, media relations manager for DuPont Pioneer, Mantey said in an email. A request for comment from the company had not been otherwise acknowledged by the company by Farm World press time.