Farmer’s Business Network releases seed relabeling report

Farmer’s Business Network, Inc.

SAN CARLOS, Calif. – Farmer’s Business Network, Inc., analyzed more than 7,500 seed labels, 2,550 unique genetic varieties from 110 seed companies, and 10,000 seed price invoices, and released the industry’s first-ever seed relabeling analysis. Comprising at least a $2.5 billion segment of the US corn and soybean market, Farmers Business Network analysts set out to study the impact of relabeling on American farms and to add transparency to farmers’ arguably most important purchasing decision.

Seed relabeling is a practice in which identical seed varieties and hybrids are sold by under multiple different brand names, often in the same market for very different prices. Seed companies use different “brand names” for each seed, which are almost always different than a seed’s actual genetic “Variety ID,” making it nearly impossible for farmers to track which products are resold by which brands.

Through its analysis, the report found that a full 38 percent of corn seed analyzed, and 45 percent of soybean seed analyzed, are relabeled and re-sold by multiple different brands. Individual corn seeds were found being sold by as many as 12 brands, for as much as a $97/bag price difference (35 percent) in the same state.

Over 63 percent of FBN members planted seeds sold by multiple brands, and 95 percent of FBN members planted seeds from a seed company that engages in relabeling. Relabeled varieties are planted on at least 17 percent of FBN corn and soybean acres.

Seed relabeling and its impact on farmers

Seed relabeling has been a major frustration for farmers for a long time, but has lacked any transparency. Farmers can substantially over pay for seed by not knowing that the identical seed is sold by other brands at a lower price. It also means the actual genetic diversity available within each crop is much smaller. And most importantly, it can create the dangerous potential for farmers to accidentally concentrate genetic risk, leading to increased resistance issues.

An industry-wide practice, not just smaller companies

Seed relabeling was found to be common amongst the vast majority of seed companies. 71 percent of corn seed companies, and 79 percent of soybean companies studied, were found to be relabeling at least some of its seeds. More than 50 corn seed companies relabeled more than 50 percent of its seeds, and 10 companies more than 80 percent.

Many smaller, regional, and independent seed companies without breeding programs utilize relabeling to increase their product offerings and compete on price and service. However, the study also found widespread relabeling amongst the major consolidated agrichemical companies. Amongst the very largest seed and agrichemical companies, it is not uncommon to see more than 60 percent of a company’s seed product portfolio being relabeled and re-sold by multiple brands.

First ever broad analysis

Seed relabeling is relatively common knowledge but there’s been little transparency brought to the table to decode how prominent seed relabeling is. University researchers have in the past created variety matching analysis in particular crops, but have never been able to analyze the majority of the seeds available on the national market.

“This was only possible by crowdsourcing from thousands of farmers, nationwide, simultaneously this planting season,” said FBN network Head of Analytics Matt Meisner. “We rigorously examined every seed label and pricing invoice to build our cross-matching database.”

“We are a network of and by farmers whose mission it is to put farmers first,” said Co-Founder and VP of Product Charles Baron. “This information is critical for farmers and is their basic right as consumers.”

Likely a conservative estimate

As widespread as the practice of relabeling was found to be, FBN analysts still believe the estimates are actually conservative. “Each additional new seed entered in our system, the likelihood that it matches another seed increases. As the data set expands to encompass all seeds on the market, the percent of each brand’s relabeling will almost certainly rise,” said Meisner.

FBN providing resources to assist farmers in identifying relabeled seeds

As a part of the FBN membership, FBN analysts create a personalized seed relabeling assessment for any farm that adds seed tags. Later this fall, seed relabeling analysis will be incorporated into the industry leading FBN Seed Finder product.

“Once you’ve determined if your brands relabel,” said Baron, “it’s critical to identify identical hybrids to find the best prices and make the most informed seed purchase possible.”