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Agrimarketing : American Seed Trade Association
ernment’s Food Commission to dis- cuss conserving the nation’s food supply and to representmembers’ interestswhichwere facing new, unexpected challenges as a result of thewar. For example, the association suc- cessfully opposed the government’s plan for fixing prices for peas and beans because itwould cripple seed production companies. They also lobbied officials regarding restric- tions being placed on the consump- tion of paper, fuel, and availability of freight carriers.When the govern- ment announced that all businesses not involved in “munitions,medi- cines orwar necessities”must be closed onMondays,ASTAsuccess- fully negotiated an exemption for the seed industry. During thewar, the government encouraged home gardening as a way to ensure an adequate food sup- ply.To support that effort,ASTA formed theNationalGarden Bureau “to act as a bureau of publicity in the interests of reliable information.” The group promoted gardens to sup- ply food, to combat the high cost of living and to provide “civilizedman, in urban surroundings,with that contactwith naturewhich is vital to his health and contentment.” HYBRIDIZATION In themeantime, sciencewas rapidly advancing.Although the sciences of genetics and heredity had been experimentedwith since the early 1800s, itwasn’t until 1918 that the hybridization of plantswould be commercially viable. That year,D.F. Jones, a scientist at the Connecticut Experiment Station proposed the double-cross hybrid for corn. The process began by using four inbred parents and cross-fertilizing each ASTACOMMEMORATIVE Tocommemorate its important milestone,ASTAhas published the book “125 Yearsof the American Seed TradeAssociation.” It pro- vides agri-marketers a detailed his- tory of the association and the seed industry. Toorder a copy,go to: www.amseed.org/meeting.asp. AM pair, creating two newplants using a single cross. The double-cross occurredwhen the scientist cross- fertilized the two resulting offspring plants, creating a stronger plant. The first hybridswere commer- cially released in 1921.At first, farmers were slowto adopt the newtechnol- ogy.They had been saving their own seed for planting since the dawn of civilization, so the thought of paying for seedwas foreign to them.How- ever, onceword spread about the increased yields the hybridswere con- sistently achieving, adoption increased sharply,creating a virtually new industry and hundreds of newseed producing companieswhose interests were to be served byASTA. WorldWar II also placed a strain on the nation’s food supply and pro- duction. Similar to itswork during By 1917,ASTAhelped create a uni- formstate seed lawand recom- mended that every state adopt it, or use it as a guideline.Within ten years, 20 states had done so. In 1940, the Federal SeedAct went into effect. Itwas the first com- prehensive federal seed legislation regulating interstate and foreign commerce and required accurate labeling.As the lawwas being cre- ated,ASTApresented an organized front and incorporated the varied concerns of itsmanymember com- panies into the legislation, accom- plishingmuchmore than individual companies could have by acting alone. Over the years, the lawwould be revised and amended, a process that continually involvedASTA. Also of importancewere the rights of plant breeders and use of patents Seed companies sorting roomswere operated primarily bywomen duringWorldWar II. Today,the process is completely automated. the previouswar,ASTAworked closelywith the government, achiev- ing balance between the govern- ment’s edicts and the seed industry’s ability tomeet demand and operate successfully. As thewar veterans returned home, the ensuing housing boom and creation of suburbs resulted in millions of acres being planted to a new“crop”: lawns, providing a major newmarket for the grass seed industry. LEGISLATION AND REGULATION In 1897, the growth of seed legisla- tion by individual states exploded. for plants. In 1961,ASTAformed a “Breeder’ Rights Study” committee to evaluate the benefits of using legisla- tion to provide protection.ASTA helped draft the PlantVariety Protec- tionAct (PVPA)whichwould grant breeders a Certificate of Protection, giving themexclusive rights tomarket a newplant variety for 17 years from the date of issuance. Passed in 1970, it provided incentive for the improve- ment of plant species. Companies that might not have investedmoney into scientific research and plant breeding were nowencouraged to do so. (more on page 8) American Seed Trade Association Supplement s AgriMarketing 5
November December 2008