by Rachael Haylock: The Bayer-Monsanto merger was approved by the US justice dept earlier this year, A move which could result catastrophic for the world’s farmers…
Earlier this year, German pharmaceutical and chemical company – Bayer, won approval from the US Justice Department to merge with agricultural giant, Monsanto. A merger which could result catastrophic for the world’s farmers.
Bayer and Monsanto have claimed this $63 billion deal will boost research and innovation in the agriculture industry. Essentially, the deal will create the largest digital agriculture, seed and pesticide company in the world.
Rob Farley, the chief technology officer of Monsanto, stated “By the time 2050 rolls around, the world will have 10 billion people, and the demand for food will double”. He claims the “whole point” of the collaboration is to allow companies to invest, and that “it’s going to take a huge amount of innovation…to double the world’s food supply”. This might seem forward thinking, but farmers are concerned. They believe this spells trouble for their prices, and the future of their businesses.
Farmer and experts alike have evaluated seed and chemical prices will increase due to the deal, meaning that many smaller farms may struggle. In fact, farm production in the US is continually moving away from smaller farms, to concentrate on larger, industrial sized, ones. Many farmers consider this merger not about innovation, but rather about financial growth, and removal of competition. By eliminating competition and taking control of the market, giant private sector companies like Bayer-Mayer, will have more control over what products are available on store shelves and the prices the public will have to pay for them.
Many believe that the consolidation between Bayer and Monsanto is yet another power move by the handful of companies that control the global agriculture markets. There are now three massive companies that control the seed, traits, and chemicals markets in the agriculture sector. This is not only more expensive for farmers, but also limits their choice of products. Consolidation and fewer options means farmers are forced to pay what the company wants to charge.
What’s more, there is an argument that the collaboration between an agricultural company like Monsanto, and a chemical company like Bayer, will mean they can save time creating products in tandem. For example, they will be able to sell fungi, and the fungicides able to treat it. At surface level this sounds great. However, there is concern amongst farmers about disease resistance. The produce they create will be highly genetically modified, and research suggests that GM crops may make humans – and plants – more vulnerable to viruses.
The genetic manipulation of food faces global opposition. Some people have the view that the effects of GM crops on human health are not fully understood, and raise questions on the chance of new health risks on the human body. There is also concern that GM crops lead to a lack or biodiversity, therefore impacting our environment and ecosystem. This is accelerated by accidental gene transfer (the ‘escape’ of genes into neighboring plants by pollen). The Bayer-Monsanto deal with undoubtedly bring more of these heavily GM crops into the environment and onto the plates of the public. Their aim is not to create the best quality product, but rather the product which will produce a greater yield at less cost.
Essentially, the merging of these two companies represents something we are seeing all too frequently; the transference of business into colossal private sectors who own most of the industry. These companies then control the variety of products we are able to purchase, and the prices we buy them for. They squash any competition, completely controlling the market. Farmers have a right to feel concern about the homogenisation of their industry, and perhaps the rest of the population should too.