Bayer-Monsanto Merger a Lose-Lose-Lose Proposition for Farmers, Eaters and the Environment

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Bayer-Monsanto Merger a Lose-Lose-Lose Proposition for Farmers, Eaters and the Environment

 Bayer Divestitures to BASF Offer No Relief

Merger Will Likely Intensify Pesticide Use, Pollution

Yesterday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) approved the mother of all agribusiness mergers, blessing the union of two of the world's largest pesticide-seed conglomerates, Bayer AG and the Monsanto Company. Bayer is to acquire Monsanto for $66 billion, subject to a court finding that it is "in the public interest," following a 60-day public comment period.

"This awful merger should have been rejected," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. "For farmers it will mean further increases in already skyrocketing seed prices and fewer affordable seed choices, and more pesticide pollution for all of us," he added.

The DoJ refused to reject the merger despite finding it would result in excessive concentration in 17 separate markets involving genetically engineered (GE) soybean, cotton, canola and corn, the pesticides used with them, and vegetable seeds. Instead, it is forcing Bayer to divest certain seed, GE trait and pesticide assets to German chemical giant BASF.

"The merger combines the world's largest seed company, Monsanto, and the second-leading purveyor of pesticides, Bayer. The divestitures will do little to tame this beast, but rather only create a new pesticide-seed conglomerate in BASF," said Kimbrell.

Bayer has a large suite of weed-killing pesticides (aka herbicides), and is also a world leader in seed treatments – insecticides and fungicides that are applied to seeds, and are taken up into plant tissues of the growing seedling. Certain seed treatments (neonicotinoids) are highly toxic to pollinators, and have been implicated in the decline of honeybees and wild bee populations.

"The merger will incentivize further intensification of pesticide use, in two ways," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety. "We are likely to see accelerated introduction of still more herbicide-resistant GMOs, which promote increased use of herbicides, rapid evolution of resistant weeds, and greater levels of herbicide residues in food," he added.  "Another threat is herbicidal drift damage to neighboring crops," he said, noting that Monsanto's dicamba-resistant, Xtend crop system caused unprecedented drift injury to millions of acres of soybeans and other crops last year.

"The merged company would also likely expand the use of hazardous seed treatments to more crops, increasing harm to pollinators, and give farmers still fewer choices of untreated seeds than they have at present," said Freese.

The merger would increase already high levels of concentration in the seed and pesticide markets, following the recent unions of Dow and DuPont (DowDuPont) and ChemChina's acquisition of the Swiss giant, Syngenta.

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