I was recently contacted by a fellow writer about a piece published on the potential Bayer-Monsanto merger. It’s such an excellent, and in-depth, look at the issue that I asked him if I could publish an excerpt here. He graciously agreed. This is a potential merger that has far-reaching and negative effects for us all. As the piece says, the Bayer-Monsanto merger is truly a marriage made in Hell.
I was recently contacted by a fellow writer about a piece published on the potential Bayer-Monsanto merger. It’s such an excellent, and in-depth, look at the issue that I asked him if I could publish an excerpt here. He graciously agreed. This is a potential merger that has far-reaching and negative effects for us all. As the piece says, the Bayer-Monsanto merger is truly a marriage made in Hell. The excerpt begins in the next paragraph. I urge you to read the full story here.
“Alarm bells have been ringing since agribusiness giants Bayer and Monsanto announced their proposed merger in September 2016.
The deal is the latest in a series of multibillion-dollar agriculture mergers that, if approved, would give a few multinational corporations unprecedented control over the chemicals and seeds on which farmers rely. While Bayer and Monsanto say the merger will lower prices, allow for greater innovation, and boost crop yields, many in the industry expect the exact opposite to occur. There are also concerns about the effects of the megamerger on consumers and the environment.
Separately, Bayer and Monsanto have demonstrated a willingness to single-mindedly pursue profits, sometimes at the expense of people and the planet. Together they have the potential to do even more harm, yet their consolidated power could allow them to escape consequences through regulatory capture.
At the heart of the Bayer-Monsanto merger controversy is a simple question: Who benefits from large corporations having enormous influence over our food supply?
Bayer and Monsanto: “A Marriage Made in Hell”
To better understand the future marriage between Bayer and Monsanto—which Friends of the Earth Europe has called “a marriage made in hell”—one must examine these companies’ pasts. Each of their histories contain dark episodes that should give pause to anyone concerned about the environment and public health.
For starters, it’s worth asking how Bayer—a German pharmaceutical company best known for products like Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer—and St. Louis-based Monsanto, a former chemical company, got into the agriculture business.
A Brief History of Bayer
Bayer was founded in the 1860s. Its first major products were the pain reliever Aspirin and (believe it or not) heroin, the latter of which was marketed as a cough suppressant and non-addictive morphine substitute. “Heroin” was a Bayer trademark for decades.
Bayer’s postwar period products have included the neuroleptic Chlorpromazine, Primodos—a controversial pregnancy test pulled from the market in the mid-1970s for alleged birth defects—and the clotting agent Factor VIII. Recent reports suggest that in the 1980s, Bayer knowingly sold HIV-contaminated Factor VIII to Asia and Latin America after the agent was pulled from U.S. and European markets. Bayer’s statin drug Baycol, introduced in the 1990s, was linked to more than 50 deaths.
Bayer became a market leader in GMOs and agribusiness when it acquired Aventis CropScience and merged it into their CropScience agrochemical division in 2002. That same year, Bayer acquired one of the top five seed companies in the world (at the time), the Netherlands-based Nunhems.
A Brief History of Monsanto
Founded in 1901, Monsanto’s first major product was the artificial sweetener saccharin, which has been linked to cancer in mice and rats.
During the 1920s Monsanto moved into chemical production, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a known human carcinogen that the United States banned in 1979. Monsanto claimed that it was not aware of PCB toxicity until the late 1960s, but internal company memos show that the company knew about the dangers early on and engaged in an extensive disinformation campaign.
The company… shifted its focus in the 1970s to agricultural chemicals, with a focus on herbicides—in particular the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). Marketed to farmers and consumers as environmentally friendly, evidence is emerging that Roundup—the most-used agricultural chemical of all time—is a human carcinogen. There is also evidence that Monsanto colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conceal Roundup’s risks.
Who Benefits from the Merger?
When top executives at Bayer and Monsanto are asked to defend the companies’ merger, they argue that consolidation is necessary to drive agricultural innovation, increase crop yields, and reduce farming input costs.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the nation’s largest corn producer, was blunt in his assessment of a Bayer-Monsanto merger. “When you have less competition, prices go up,” said Mr. Grassley.
Less competition could mean not only higher prices, but also less diversity in seed and chemical choices. “Large companies’ model of innovation has served as a barrier to entry for smaller companies interested in developing more choices for farmers,” said Matthew Crips of agricultural technology firm Benson Hill Biosystems.
Promises vs. Results: Examining the Industrial Farming Track Record
The promises of Big Ag to help farmers and increase yields are nothing new. From the start, Monsanto has touted the enormous potential of genetically modified crops and industrial farming techniques. They are now doubling down on promises to offer better farming solutions for the benefit of all.
But it’s hard not to be cynical about these claims. Over the last 15 years, Monsanto has grown more than sixfold to a value of over $100 billion. Sales of Roundup and Roundup Ready crops have largely driven this growth.
Bayer and Monsanto want us to believe that their joining together is for the greater good. Yet in the final analysis, the companies’ track records give the public few good reasons to support a merger—and many good reasons to fear it.”
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