(Beyond Pesticides, November 13, 2017) Proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger is bad for farmers, bad for consumers. Tell the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to Block This Dangerous Merger!
In late 2016, Monsanto and Bayer announced a $66 billion merger. The Department of Justice is in the midst of reviewing it, and a decision is expected in late 2017. Should this merger go through, only four companies in the world will control all seed and agricultural chemical business: Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont, ChemChina-Syngenta, and BASF.
Should Bayer and Monsanto merge, the entity will become:
- the world’s largest vegetable seed company, with a virtual lock on broccoli, carrots, and onions
- the world’s largest cotton seed company, responsible for the seed for about 70% of all the cotton grown in the U.S.
- along with another company (Dow-DuPont), in control of 77% of all the seed corn in the U.S.
- the world’s largest manufacturer and seller of herbicides
- the world’s largest owner of the intellectual property/patents for herbicide-tolerance seed traits: 69% of all herbicide tolerance traits approved for use in the U.S. for alfalfa, canola, cotton, corn, soybean, and wheat. (An herbicide-tolerance trait is a gene inserted into the seed that allows the crop to withstand the use of the herbicide, e.g. Roundup.)
For farmers and farmworkers this means:
- Increased cost. Estimates predict an 18% increase in cotton seed prices, a 2.3% increase for corn, and a 1.9% uptick for soybeans. Dairies and ranchers could face increased feed prices from both genetically engineered (GE) and non-GE alfalfa.
- Increased pesticide and genetic contamination. For organic farmers, greater market penetration of GE seeds increases potential for cross-farm genetic contamination (and company lawsuits against farms alleging improper use of patent-protected traits). Greater use of pesticides/pesticide-resistant varieties would likely bring greater incidence of pesticide drift-related damage to organic fields.
- Lack of access and diversity. Farmers will be further locked in to using product mixes (e.g., seeds and pesticides) designed by these companies. With fewer companies in the marketplace, GE seed and pesticides will dominate the marketplace, reducing the availability of untreated, non-GE seed, which means fewer choices available to farmers.
- Research and development. Current and new research investment will focus on patentable GE seeds, reducing and undermining research into, and the availability of, diverse, non-GE, locally appropriate seed varieties that benefit both conventional and organic producers.
- Farmworker exposures. Increased use of pesticides and expansion of pesticide-treated seed varieties will lead to greater pesticide exposure for farmworkers.
- Increased power of industry. The dominance of industry in the pesticide regulation process may result in less stringent controls over pesticide use and thus, greater harm to farmworkers and the environment.
For consumers, this means:
- Increased grocery bills. The impact on prices of inputs for farmers could drive up consumer prices for all foods, especially those with commodity-crop ingredients (corn, soy, and wheat). Animal products could also be affected, with increases in alfalfa and other feed prices; clothing made from U.S. cotton could be similarly affected.
- Strains on organic. Consumers committed to eating GE-free foods (such as organic) will face additional difficulties as the market dominance of GE crops is consolidated and deepened. Further, with increased environmental contamination, organic farmers will face challenges meeting organic standards.
- Increased environmental concerns. Further entrenchment of a farming system dominated by GE seeds and pesticide-intensive production will lead to increased contamination of the environment due to pesticide and genetic drift, water contamination, and impacts to non-target organisms.
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