Access to Seeds
Index 2019 South and
Southeast Asia

Seed companies are a crucial partner in efforts to raise smallholder farmer productivity and achieve food and nutrition security. For the first time, the Access to Seeds Index shines a light on companies taking the lead in reaching smallholder farmers in South and Southeast Asia.

Introduction

Small-scale farming dominates the agricultural landscape in South and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Helping farmers in these regions to grow more, and more nutritious, food is key to achieving food and nutrition security, one of the major challenges outlined by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A large part of the answer to the question of how to raise agricultural productivity, while also remaining within the planetary boundaries and tackling climate change, will come from plant breeding – but only when the results of plant breeding reach smallholder farmers. This is where the seed industry comes in.

Over the coming months, the Access to Seeds Index will publish multiple indexes that evaluate the performance of the seed industry at the regional level in South and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa as well as the global seed industry as a whole. Benchmarking seed companies against their peers recognizes leadership, while providing an evidence base for the conversation on where and how the seed industry can do more.

The Access to Seeds Index, initiated by the Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation, it is one of the first benchmarks to be published as part of the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), launched last September during the UN General Assembly in New York. The goal of WBA benchmarks is to increase the contribution of the private sector to achieving the SDGs.

Ranking

Thailand-based East-West Seed tops this first Access to Seeds Index for South and Southeast Asia. The company is built around a smallholder-centric business model, which is reflected in a client base made up almost entirely (98%) of smallholders.

*In August 2018, Bayer completed the $66 billion takeover of Monsanto. The 2019 index reflects company activities in the 2015-2017 period, prior to the takeover.
Measurement areas
  • Governance & Strategy
  • Genetic Resources
  • Intellectual Property
  • Research & Development
  • Seed Production
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Capacity Building

The Access to Seeds Index presents an overall ranking, which is the weighted sum of the results in seven measurement areas. The rankings for each of these areas are available below.

Overall, the five highest scoring companies are globally active. Their roots are in the region (East-West Seed, Advanta) or they have had breeding, production and distribution activities in the region for a long time (Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva), making them almost as rooted in the region as companies that originate there.

Compared to regional seed companies, these globally active companies tend to have more comprehensive strategies is place, with clear targets for tackling food and nutrition security. Global companies also generally employ the same business model and extensive portfolio across markets, whereas regional companies typically have strong programs to support smallholder farmer productivity in their home country but confine their activities abroad to sales and offer a smaller portfolio.

Thailand-based East-West Seed tops this first South and Southeast Asia Index. The company is built around a smallholder-centric business model, which is reflected in a client base made up almost entirely (98%) of smallholders. Originating in the region but now operating globally, it serves as an example for its peers thanks to a breeding program and product portfolio that includes local crops, capacity building activities in all the countries where it is active and comprehensive corporate strategies that seek to benefit smallholder farmers.

The highest scoring regional company is Acsen HyVeg, closely followed by Namdhari Seeds. Companies at the bottom of the ranking generally score low due to a lack of disclosure.


Learn more about this ranking

Mrs. Waraporn Kanpeerayot and Mr. Boonchai Kanpeerayot are short cucumber farmers in the Ratchaburi province in central Thailand. Working with them is East-West Seed spot promoter Mr Khajornsak Pothakarn. The majority of the marketing activities of East-West Seed focus on village and township levels, where mobile teams such as spot promoters and extension staff work in the fields in order to train and educate farmers. Photo credit: Marlies Wessels.

Key Findings

UN Agencies recently warned of “colossal human loss” to Asia as the fight against malnutrition has come to a standstill. Nearly half a billion people are undernourished in the region. Food and nutrition security is negatively affected by a changing climate which is impacting agriculture.

Adapting agriculture to new climate trends while also raising production poses huge challenges to small food producers. Among a wide range of measures, these producers need to be included in food value chains and get access to new, stress-tolerant crop varieties, according to the UN.

Is the seed industry well positioned to partner in this challenge? This first evaluation of 24 leading seed companies in South and Southeast Asia shows that the industry is present in all countries. It is highly research-driven, releasing new varieties for a broad variety of crops. Seeds are sold in package sizes tailored to the needs of smallholders.

However, sales activities are not often accompanied by training to help farmers in adapting their practices and adopting new technologies. In addition, breeding and production activities tend to be concentrated in only a handful of countries. As a result, seed sector development in other countries does not progress to the same degree. Ultimately, the majority of smallholders in the region has yet to be reached.

Key Finding 1

Seed companies are present throughout the region but reaching only 20% of the smallholder farmers

Almost all companies selected for the South and Southeast Asia Index have a presence in India. Even in Afghanistan and Laos, which are relatively overlooked, six and nine companies respectively have a presence. However, in these countries as well as in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Cambodia, most companies limit their activities to sales. Often, only a single company reports having adoption strategies or extension services in place in any one of these five countries. The highest number of technical staff is reported in India. Based on estimates of farmers reached by the 24 companies in the index, together they reach no more than 20% of all active smallholder farmers.

Key Finding 2

Six countries are seed hubs; three countries lack breeding and production activities

India, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Bangladesh can be considered seed hubs, based on the concentration of production, breeding and processing activities by index companies in these countries. From a business point of view, it is logical that companies concentrate their breeding and production activities in select countries. For the country itself, these kinds of investments can have a positive effect on the advancement of the national seed industry. No company reports having breeding activities in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Neither was evidence found of production or processing activities in Afghanistan or Cambodia. However, local seed companies (not included in this index) do report having breeding activities in Afghanistan and Cambodia.

Key Finding 3

Vegetable seed is a key business driver; legumes are underrepresented

Two-thirds of the companies report that vegetable seed is one of their main business drivers, while half of the companies report that rice is one of their main crops. Overall, the industry offers a broad portfolio of vegetable seed. For field crops, most companies report being active in rice and maize. Even though half of the companies report having small grains like millet and sorghum in their portfolio, only one company reports that this is one of its top three crops. Legumes are generally underrepresented in company portfolios across the region.

Key Finding 4

For the majority of crops, the newest varieties are less than three years old; regional companies do more to release public research varieties

The age of varieties is an indicator of the investments seed companies make in their crop breeding programs. Global companies report that for 66% of the crops in their portfolio in the region the youngest variety is less than three years old. For regional seed companies, that percentage is slightly lower at 53% of their portfolio. New varieties are for the most part the result of companies’ own breeding programs. For global seed companies, this applies to 73% of the crops in their portfolio; for regional companies, 65% of the crops in their portfolio. When it comes to releasing varieties from public research, regional companies perform better: 12% of the crops in their portfolio versus 5% for global companies.

Key Finding 5

Hybrids dominate; regional companies extend the availability of open-pollinated varieties

Global companies offer for 70% of the crops in their portfolio only hybrid varieties. For regional companies this is 60%. Through the combined portfolios of regional seed companies, open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) are available for all crops in the index scope. Of the global companies, only East-West Seed, Limagrain and Advanta sell OPVs. Of the regional companies, National Seeds Corporation and Acsen HyVeg stand out for making OPVs available for almost all or all crops in their portfolio respectively. Given this emphasis on hybrids, it is surprising that only a few companies are involved in providing access to other inputs that are needed to achieve the best results from hybrids. The price and package size of fertilizers, in particular, can hamper the suitability of these kinds of seeds for smallholder farmers.

Key Finding 6

Most seed companies sell package sizes tailored to the needs of smallholder farmers

The size of seed packages is a clear indicator of whether the industry is geared toward the needs of smallholder farmers. The majority of companies report selling seed in small packages, in some cases just six seeds per package. Small seed packages for field crops generally range from 100g to 10kg, for vegetables from 5g to 1kg and for legumes from 50g to 1kg. On average, the industry offers two different package sizes for field crops and three different package sizes for vegetables. In field crops, Limagrain and Lal Teer Seed (maize) and Kalash Seeds (rice) are notable for offering a choice of four package sizes. In vegetable seeds, East-West Seed and Acsen HyVeg offer the most choice, with on average five different package sizes per crop.

Measurement Areas

The assessment of company performance is based on a total of 59 indicators grouped in seven measurement areas. Each measurement area has four categories of indicators: Commitment, Performance, Transparency and Leadership. A company’s overall score is the weighted sum of the scores in each measurement area.

Governance & Strategy

Global seed companies set the example, with comprehensive strategies in place to support smallholder productivity and achieve the SDGs. Most regional companies see smallholders as their main clientele but do not communicate clear targets that would increase their accountability.

Ranking for Governance & Strategy

Syngenta leads the ranking for Governance & Strategy, closely followed by its global peers Corteva Agriscience, East-West Seed and Bayer, all of which demonstrate integrated, corporate-led sustainability strategies with dedicated resources and activities aimed at improving access to seeds for smallholder farmers in the region.

Acsen HyVeg leads the regional companies for devising smallholder-led strategies at the board level and dedicating significant corporate budget to the development of varieties best suited to the needs of smallholders.

A common theme among companies at the lower end of the ranking is a lack of transparency, a key criterion for companies to be held accountable for their commitments and activities.

East-West Seed earns leadership points at the country level for its influential role in establishing a seed sector in Myanmar, which has comparatively few seed companies and low sales.

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Genetic Resources

Companies strictly adhere to national laws and/or international treaties but could do more to support the conservation and use of genetic diversity in the region. Many companies, both regional and global, make significant use of germplasm from national and international research institutes and gene banks.

Ranking for Genetic Resources

East-West Seed and Syngenta rank joint first for Genetic Resources, in part due to their disclosure of track and trace systems as well as monetary and non-monetary contributions to the conservation of genetic diversity.

Bayer comes a close third for its monetary contributions to internationally agreed access and benefit-sharing frameworks, and for its disclosure of a comprehensive track and trace system.

Of the regional companies, Nuziveedu Seeds, Acsen HyVeg and Lal Teer Seed score highest in this area. All engage in the conservation and use of genetic resources by maintaining germplasm diversity in their company gene banks and through collaborations with public research institutes.

East-West Seed scores leadership points for its collaboration with the Philippines’ national gene bank. Through research and training on crop germplasm conservation, the collaboration aims to increase the availability of traits necessary to develop improved varieties tailored to regional needs.

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Intellectual Property

Half of the companies explicitly state that they do not limit the use of their varieties for further breeding or the use of farm-saved seeds. Few companies have tailored pricing strategies for their patent-protected material to ensure affordability for smallholder farmers.

Ranking for Intellectual Property

The global companies East-West Seed and Syngenta outperform their peers, with strong positions on IP while considering the needs of smallholder farmers and being transparent about such positions.

Monsanto scores highly for its transparency on IP, however its positions are unfavorable to the needs of smallholder farmers.

The level of transparency among the companies who disclose their position on IP varies significantly. Global companies state their position publicly, but most regional companies lack transparency on the subject.

Syngenta was among the first companies to make genetic information freely available in the form of rice genome data, and it continues to play an important role in the philanthropic initiative to make Golden Rice a reality. For this, it earns leadership points.

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Research & Development

All companies have extensive breeding programs for a broad number of crops. However, regionally based seed companies lead the way, with breeding programs that include a focus on local crops, prioritize smallholder-relevant traits and are more supportive of agricultural biodiversity.

Ranking for Research & Development

Regionally based companies dominate the Research & Development ranking thanks to programs that breed a diverse range of crops. These companies also lead the way, with trials that test research institute varieties and varieties from other companies, breeding for specific traits and collaborative research programs tailored to smallholder farmer needs.

Topping the ranking is East-West Seed, which scores highly for its extensive breeding program focused on local crops and its Advanced Plant Breeding program that trains next-generation plant breeders.

Namdhari Seeds scores well for engaging smallholder farmers in participatory plant breeding. Nuziveedu Seeds, Known-You Seed and Metahelix make local conditions and smallholder preferences their explicit focus when developing and testing improved varieties. Bayer excels in developing improved varieties of global crops, collaborating extensively with CGIAR institutes, and for its research and development activities throughout the region. Advanta also has strong breeding programs for global crops, and has breeding locations in India, Bangladesh and Thailand.

East-West Seed and Namdhari Seeds earn leadership points in this area; East-West Seed forits strong breeding focus on improved local crops – 11 crops in total – and Namdhari Seeds for its breeding programthat involves women smallholder farmers in identifyingnew varieties of okra.

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Seed Production

Half of the companies report involving smallholder farmers in seed production in most index countries; child labor remains a concern.

Ranking for Seed Production

East-West Seed clearly leads the ranking for Seed Production, owing to its commitment to engage smallholders in seed production and the overall broad scope of its activities in this area.

Syngenta and Bayer score consistently for their robust seed production activities, while Vinaseed performs well thanks to the commitment and transparency demonstrated by its parent company, PAN Group, regarding its seed production activities.

Advanta has seed production locations in eight countries, the highest number in the region. Sakata sets an example with a robust policy for labor standards in seed production.

Following issues around child labor, several companies have adopted corporate-led approaches to tackling this issue. Fourteen companies state that child labor is explicitly prohibited within seed production.

East-West Seed receives leadership points for its Creative Young Farmer program, which aims to inspire more next-generation farmers to become seed producers. Syngenta earns recognition for its collaboration with the Fair Labor Association, part of its‘Look after every worker’ commitment, which strives to ensure fair labor conditions along the supply chain.

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Marketing & Sales

The seed industry as a whole offers a wide choice of crops, while regional companies broaden the availability of seeds for local crops and open-pollinated varieties. Less attention is paid to smallholder-appropriate affordability strategies.

Ranking for Marketing & Sales

East-West Seed leads the ranking for Marketing & Sales thanks to a broad portfolio of crops and varieties offered throughout the region, along with a marketing and sales approach tailored to smallholder farmers.

Three global companies follow. Bayer and Syngenta have dedicated commitments in this area as well as strong performance in tailoring packages and offering other agricultural inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers. Advanta is deeply rooted in the region and demonstrates marketing strategies tailored to its regional core client base, which is dominated by smallholders.

Regional companies such as Kalash Seeds, Acsen HyVeg and Lal Teer Seed broaden the regional portfolio by offering crops and varieties tailored to the specific needs of smallholder farmers.

The seed industry is relatively transparent about its marketing and sales activities, resulting in consistent scores for transparency across all companies. Only companies at the bottom of the ranking do not report on how they link their marketing and sales activities to the needs of smallholder farmers.

East-West Seed’s marketing and sales approach, which is entirely tailored to the needs of smallholder farmers, is leading in the industry in South and Southeast Asia. Advanta demonstrates leadership with its okra assurance scheme, launched in 2017 in India. BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise earns leadership points for its fine-meshed distribution network in Bangladesh, which reaches all parts of the country. Acsen HyVeg is the only company that ensures availability of open-pollinated varieties for all crops in its portfolio.

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Capacity Building

A majority of the companies provide agronomic training for
smallholder farmers, but few do so in all countries where they are present. Companies pay limited attention to the development and training needs of next-generation and women farmers.

Ranking for Capacity Building

East-West Seed tops the ranking for Capacity Building, helped by the scope of extension services offered by its Knowledge Transfer arm. Bayer comes a close second, with several comprehensive hybrid adoption programs, integrated value chain development projects and a novel shrimp-rice project in Vietnam, for which it receives leadership points.

Of the regional companies, Lal Teer Seed stands out for its collaborative ICT program in Bangladesh that provides smallholders with weather information and agronomical advice. Namdhari Seeds is one of the few regional companies directly linking smallholders to output markets. Both earn leadership points for these activities.

Compared to other areas, the scores in Capacity Building are generally lower. This reflects the fact that, apart from various stand-alone projects, only a handful of companies have in place organization-wide approaches to build farmer capacity. As capacity building is not an integral part of their business models, companies choose to concentrate these activities in a limited number of markets. Only a few companies report employing approaches focused on next-generation and women farmers.

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Company Scorecards

The index presents scorecards for each company, which can be accessed via the links below. The scorecards highlight a company’s presence and portfolio, leading practices and notable findings. They also present comparative strengths in relation to the other companies assessed.

View here to see how the company ranking works.

Ifugao women farmers in rice fields in the Philippines. Rice is the most important staple crop in South and Southeast Asia. It is therefore also a key crop for the seed industry: It is found in the portfolio of 18 of the 24 leading seed companies evaluated in this index and for half of them it is one of their most important business drivers. The majority of companies focus on hybrid rice. Seven of the companies report also selling open pollinated varieties that allow farmers to save seed and reuse it in the next season. Photo credit: Isagani Serrano, 2008 IRRI.

Country Profiles

Six countries in the region where multiple leading seed companies invest in breeding, production and processing activities can be qualified as seed hubs. Country reports provide an overview of the presence and activities of index companies in each country.

  • Afghanistan

    Nine index companies report having a presence in Afghanistan. They are only involved in the sale of vegetable crops. None of the companies in the index have seed production, testing, breeding, processing or extension activities.

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  • Bangladesh

    Twenty-three index companies are present in Bangladesh, with most of the companies having testing locations. The Bangladeshi companies BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise and Lal Teer Seed have complete seed value chains in the country, from breeding to extension.

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  • Cambodia

    Twelve index companies report having a presence in Cambodia, with four having testing locations and three offering extension activities. National seed actors (not included in the index) carry out breeding and production activities.

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  • India

    Twenty-six index companies report having a presence in India, with eight headquartered in the country. Companies have complete seed value chains in the country, making it a regional seed hub. India is the only index country participating in OECD seed schemes.

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  • Indonesia

    Twenty-one index companies report having a presence in Indonesia, with three companies having breeding, testing, seed production, processing, sales and extension activities. The country is developing into a competitive seed hub.

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  • Laos

    Ten index companies have a presence in Laos, selling seed for both field crops and vegetables. However, seed business activities are limited. Two companies have testing locations, but only one company offers extension services.

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  • Myanmar

    Fourteen index companies report having a presence in Myanmar. None of the companies report breeding locations. Six companies indicate having testing locations, but other activities such as seed production, processing and extension are limited.

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  • Nepal

    Eighteen index companies report having a presence in Nepal. While six companies indicate having testing locations, Lal Teer Seed is the only company that has a full seed value chain including breeding activities.

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  • Pakistan

    Twenty-two index companies report having a presence in Pakistan. Seed production is carried out by three companies with limited involvement of smallholder farmers. Some local seed companies (not included in the index) carry out breeding and production.

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  • Sri Lanka

    Nineteen index companies report having a presence in Sri Lanka, with eight having testing locations. Only two companies offer extension services. Some local companies (not included in the index) produce seed in the country, although Advanta is the only index company to do so.

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  • Thailand

    Twenty-one index companies report having a presence Thailand. Most of the companies carry out breeding, testing and seed production, making the country one of the seed hubs in the region. Less than half of the companies offer extension services.

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  • The Philippines

    Eighteen index companies report having a presence in the Philippines. Eight companies indicate having testing locations. Six have breeding locations, four have processing locations and six produce seed in the country, making it one of the seed hubs in the region.

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  • Vietnam

    Twenty-one index companies report having a presence in Vietnam. It can be considered a seed hub, with seed production and breeding activities being carried out by nine and six companies respectively. Only six companies offer extension services.

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presence and
activities
Afghanistan

Nine index companies report having a presence in Afghanistan. They are only involved in the sale of vegetable crops. None of the companies in the index have seed production, testing, breeding, processing or extension activities.

Bangladesh

Twenty-three index companies are present in Bangladesh, with most of the companies having testing locations. The Bangladeshi companies BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise and Lal Teer Seed have complete seed value chains in the country, from breeding to extension.

Cambodia

Twelve index companies report having a presence in Cambodia, with four having testing locations and three offering extension activities. National seed actors (not included in the index) carry out breeding and production activities.

India

Twenty-six index companies report having a presence in India, with eight headquartered in the country. Companies have complete seed value chains in the country, making it a regional seed hub. India is the only index country participating in OECD seed schemes.

Indonesia

Twenty-one index companies report having a presence in Indonesia, with three companies having breeding, testing, seed production, processing, sales and extension activities. The country is developing into a competitive seed hub.

Laos

Ten index companies have a presence in Laos, selling seed for both field crops and vegetables. However, seed business activities are limited. Two companies have testing locations, but only one company offers extension services.

Myanmar

Fourteen index companies report having a presence in Myanmar. None of the companies report breeding locations. Six companies indicate having testing locations, but other activities such as seed production, processing and extension are limited.

Nepal

Eighteen index companies report having a presence in Nepal. While six companies indicate having testing locations, Lal Teer Seed is the only company that has a full seed value chain including breeding activities.

Pakistan

Twenty-two index companies report having a presence in Pakistan. Seed production is carried out by three companies with limited involvement of smallholder farmers. Some local seed companies (not included in the index) carry out breeding and production.

Sri Lanka

Nineteen index companies report having a presence in Sri Lanka, with eight having testing locations. Only two companies offer extension services. Some local companies (not included in the index) produce seed in the country, although Advanta is the only index company to do so.

Thailand

Twenty-one index companies report having a presence Thailand. Most of the companies carry out breeding, testing and seed production, making the country one of the seed hubs in the region. Less than half of the companies offer extension services.

The Philippines

Eighteen index companies report having a presence in the Philippines. Eight companies indicate having testing locations. Six have breeding locations, four have processing locations and six produce seed in the country, making it one of the seed hubs in the region.

Vietnam

Twenty-one index companies report having a presence in Vietnam. It can be considered a seed hub, with seed production and breeding activities being carried out by nine and six companies respectively. Only six companies offer extension services.

Access to Seeds Index 2019 - South and Southeast Asia

Disclaimer
The online and printed reports presented by the Access to Seeds Index are intended to be for information purposes only and not as promotional material in any respect. The material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument. The reports are not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice or investment recommendations.

As a multi-stakeholder and collaborative project the Access to Seeds Index involves members of relevant stakeholder groups in expert or advisory committees. The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in Access to Seeds Index reports may not necessarily reflect the views of all involved or the organizations they represent.

The data used to compile the Access to Seeds Index, the ranking and findings are based on information publicly disclosed by companies or submitted on engagement. Information has been cross-checked and where relevant, verified with experts. Final scorecards were discussed with individual companies for fact checking purposes. Whilst based on information believed to be reliable, no guarantee can be given that it is accurate or complete.

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Acknowledgements
The Access to Seeds Index 2019 is made possible through the collaborative team efforts of many experts, authors, researchers, analysts and funders. Also the guidance from the Expert Review Committees and the Supervisory Board, as well as the cooperation with the team of the World Benchmarking Alliance have been helpful.

On the side of companies, representatives have been available to provide feedback on the methodology in various stages of the development process. Also teams have been working on gathering and submitting the requested data and provide clarification where necessary.

The Access to Seeds Foundation is grateful for the contributions and expertise, of each and would like to offer thanks to those who provided valuable feedback throughout the development of the Access to Seeds Index.

Copyright
No part of this report may be reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the Access to Seeds Foundation.

Editor
Cecily Layzell, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Design
Kummer & Herrman, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Web development
Studio September, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Photography

East-West Seed: Marlies Wessels
IRRI: Isagani Serrano, 2008 IRRI.
Governance & Strategy: Abir Abdullah
Genetic Resources:  Ariful Islam, BRAC
Intellectual Property: Daniel Rosenthal
Research & Development: Bayer
Seed Production: East-West Seed
Marketing & Sales: East-West Seed
Capacity Building: Bayer