Seed Systems and Markets

Systems and markets that provide farmers with access to seeds and planting materials lie at the heart of efforts to boost agricultural productivity and improve rural livelihoods in many developing countries. Seeds are the very embodiment of modern science – they represent the efforts of farmers and scientists to select and breed for desirable traits such as yield, pest and disease resistance, tolerance to abiotic stresses, and quality attributes preferred by consumers and other actors in the value chain. Seeds are also a hotly contested space: public, private, and civil society actors involved in shaping the global discourse around seed systems and markets have developed competing narratives around how best to build integrated, innovative and sustainable seed systems that provide high-quality seed of improved cultivars to farmers, encourage investment and entrepreneurship, protect the rights of local communities over their biodiversity, and facilitate global cooperation on agricultural research for development.

Global and national policy play a pivotal role in ensuring that seed systems and markets function in an efficient and equitable manner. IFPRI's long-standing work in this area focuses on the design of strategies and policies that increase investment in breeding and varietal development and encourage sensible regulation of quality assurances, marketing, and distribution of improved seeds and traits especially for small-scale, resource-poor farmers. IFPRI's research and communications activities focus on identifying the policy and regulatory environments that influence seed system performance and growth at various levels (national, regional, and global; community and market; crop, trait, and technology); analyzing the impact of alternative policies and regulations on key indicators (e.g., costs of development and delivery; access and availability); and recommending sensible policy and regulatory reforms that strengthen breeding programs, seed systems, and market incentives.

IFPRI's work covers a range of topics including agricultural R&D incentives, seed quality regulations, plant genetic resource policy, intellectual property rights, farmers' rights, competition policy, and corporate strategy. IFPRI partners extensively with other actors working on this topic, including CGIAR Research Programs and Centers, regional agricultural research platforms, policy think tanks in developing countries, national seed regulatory agencies, and agricultural research and extension organizations in developing countries.