What the Monsanto-Bayer Merger Means for South Africa

This past December 2016, Monsanto shareholders agreed to the sale of their company to German Agro-chemical and seed company Bayer, for $66 million US Dollars. It will be the largest ever foreign corporate takeover in US history. The newly merged company will now control 29 percent of the world’s seed markets, and 24 percent of the world’s pesticide market. AGRA Watch partner The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) with the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Foundation, has published a paper called, ‘The BAYER-MONSANTO merger: Implications for South Africa’s agricultural future and its smallholder farmers”, outlining the proposed merger.

ACB is headquartered in South Africa, where Bayer and Monsanto are major actors in the seed and agrochemical industries. This deal will require approval from about 30 regulatory agencies around the world, including the South Africa’s Competition Commission.

ACB explains how the Monsanto-Bayer merger is happening against the backdrop of other mega-mergers also consolidating the agrochemical and seed markets, including genetically modified seed markets. Six agro chemical giants will soon become three, as US chemical giants Dow and DuPont merge in a deal estimated to be worth US$130 billion, and China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) and Swiss-based Syngenta merge in a deal worth around US$43 billion.

According to the report, if all the mergers are approved, three corporations will control 60% of the global commercial seed market and 64% of the agrochemical market. The corporations will also be able to claim “too big to fail” status, setting the stage for future bailouts using public resources, and further reducing accountability and opportunities for democratic control of the food system.

ACB points out that these mergers will further push integration between seed and agrochemical market. It will restrict farmers’ choices about what crops they plant and what inputs they use. This model of production will deepen inequality, threaten the integrity of land and water resources, and decrease agricultural biodiversity.

With the full support of AGRA Watch, ACB calls on the South African Competition Commission to reject the merger. They also call of the South African government to rein in the power of corporations and to commit resources towards decentralised R&D in partnership with farmers and consumers for more democratic and sustainable agricultural development.

Download and read the full report PDF.

 

Contact:

Ms Mariam Mayet: Director ACB mariam@acbio.org.za

Dr Stephen Greenberg: Research Co-ordinator ACB stephen@acbio.org.za

Mr Benjamin Luig: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Benjamin.Luig@rosalux.org

Report-back on Mexico City Conference on GMOs

Taking Stock – 20 Years of GM Crops – 40 Years of ‘Genetic Engineering’

By Simone Adler

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Phil Bereano, AGRA Watch Member, speaks during the ENSSER conference on Gates and Philanthrocapitalism. (L-R) Phil Bereano, Mariam Mayet of African Center of Biodiversity, Angela Hilbeck of ETH Zurich, and Dr. Oram Arellano, session chair for the conference.

On December 1st and 2nd, AGRA Watch member Phil Bereano and CAGJ Organizing Director Simone Adler joined scientists from around the world for a conference held at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City to present where we are in regards to genetic engineering in agriculture and other fields, where we’ve come, and where we are going. The conference, titled “Taking Stock – 20 Years of GM Crops – 40 Years of ‘Genetic Engineering’” was hosted by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Third World Network (TWN), the Mexican Union of Scientist Concerned with Society (UCCS), and the Latin American Union of Scientist Concerned with Society and Nature (UCCSNAL).

The two days of presentations (with simultaneous Spanish and English interpretation) were organized on topics ranging from the “human cost of GM crops in South America” to “CRISPR Gene Drives and the implication of extinction technologies and population-scale engineering”, from “the failure of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso” to “legal framework for GMO risk assessment: excluding public science”. AGRA Watch member Phil Bereano gave a presentation entitled “Philanthrocapitalism: the Gates Foundation’s African Programs are not Charity” as part the session “GMOs in Developing Countries”.

Preceding the Conference of Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity and Meeting of the Parties on the Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols held in Cancun, this conference presented an opportunity to review and share analysis on issues of concern at COP13 and MOP8 in particular, such as synthetic biology and gene drives.

The report by ENSSER gives a robust summary of the presentations, including Phil’s (see below), and their important analyses. Continue reading “Report-back on Mexico City Conference on GMOs”

N2Africa, the Gates Foundation and legume commercialisation in Africa

N2 Africa report

By Sarah Herrington, AGRA Watch Intern

In August, the African Centre for Biodiversity released a report titled N2Africa, The Gates Foundation and legume commercialization in Africa, as a result of a 3 year research program. This report focuses on the N2Africa program, which claims to be an initiative for the development and distribution of new legume varieties, as well as promotion of the use of inoculants and synthetic fertilizers, in order to develop a commercial legume market for smallholders. The program is backed by a conglomerate of organizations, including the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), public research institutions, farmer associations, and universities. The majority of funding, however, comes directly from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with smaller donations from its affiliate, the Howard G. Warren Foundation.

Legumes have a long history as a food source in Africa due to their high nutritional value. Although the development of new legume varieties offers possibilities for nutritional and ecological benefits for smallholders and the African population, the program follows the pattern of other Green Revolution initiatives – resulting in problems such as economic instability, land holding risks, and misplaced objectives. This report outlines the problematic potentials of the N2Africa Program as well as projected outcomes. The report points out the parameters that should be recognized as the primary goals of the initiative (the nutritional and ecological benefits) and how these parameters are actually thrown into a secondary category of developmental goals, behind international commercial market development.

 

 

 

 

Anchor Farm Project: The Clinton Foundation’s Link to AGRA/BMGF

In light of the recent media spotlight on the Clinton Foundation, AGRA Watch investigated the relationship among the Clinton Foundation, AGRA, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

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Report researched and compiled by Cate Abascal, AGRA Watch Intern, September 2015; Updated by Megumi Sugihara, AGRA Watch Member, September 2016

In light of the recent media spotlight on the Clinton Foundation, AGRA Watch investigated the relationship among the Clinton Foundation, AGRA, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). It was soon revealed that the Anchor Farm Project of the Clinton Development Initiative is a link between these three organizations. As our report illustrates, it is another push by BMGF to penetrate African agriculture.

Although Anchor Farms is the project of the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Development Initiative (CDI), it is directly funded by the Gates Foundation’s subsidiary AGRA under the Soil Health Program for the stated purpose of “improving the productivity of maize and soya beans through integrated soil fertility management and better access to markets.” The project establishes large commercial farms, called “Anchor Farms”, in rural areas. At the farms, the Clinton Foundation staff trains local farmers in commercial farming practices and mediate loans between commercial banks and the farmers for the needed equipment and inputs. Continue reading “Anchor Farm Project: The Clinton Foundation’s Link to AGRA/BMGF”

Resisting Land Grabs in Ghana: A Success Story

“When local leaders became aware of the mining company’s plans to prospect, they already had the tools to articulate concerns to the community and the knowledge that they had the right to say no.”

 

Unmasking Land Grabbing In Ghana; Restoring Livelihoods; Paving Way For Sustainable Development Goals
Photo Credit: Rose Oppong, CIKOD

By Johanna Lundahl, AGRA Watch Intern

In late August Caritas Ghana, a catholic humanitarian organization, along with the National Catholic Secretariat, and the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD) published a joint report called Unmasking Land Grabs In Ghana; Restoring Livlihoods; Paving the Way for Sustainable Development Goals. The report is an overview of the issue of land grabs in Africa generally and more specifically Ghana, with an in depth look at three case studies. The cases show varying degrees of exploitation of the local communities, lack of transparency in the initial negotiations, and the socio economic interests of local people suffering as a result of a corporation’s actions. The final report was compiled by Samuel Zan Akologo of Caritas Ghana, and Bernard Guri, Executive Director of CIKOD.

CIKOD is a member of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), who will receive the Food Sovereignty Prize in Seattle on October 15th, awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance and hosted by CAGJ/AGRA Watch at Town Hall (register here). Bernard Guri, Executive Director of CIKOD, is the Chair of AFSA, and will be in Seattle to accept the prize on behalf of AFSA. Continue reading “Resisting Land Grabs in Ghana: A Success Story”

Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and NOT the Green Revolution for Africa

Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and NOT the Green Revolution for AfricaIn mid July the African Center for Biodiversity(ABC) published Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and Not the Green Revolution for Africa, a comprehensive report on the consequences of the Green Revolution push in Africa, based on it’s fieldwork done in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe over the last three years.The report asserts that the promotion of increased synthetic fertilizer use in Africa for enhancing soil fertility is a short term fix, and is actually harmful in the long term.

Interventions pushing for high tech solutions such as genetically modified seeds, increased pesticide use and increased use of synthetic fertilizers have been spearheaded by fertilizer g
iant Yara, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa(AGRA), an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The ABC believes that, “the obsession with increasing adoption and uptake of synthetic fertilizers on the continent seems to be more about opening up fertilizer markets for multinational corporations, and stimulating commercial output markets than about identifying and responding to the specific needs of farmers in their socio-ecological context.”

Continue reading “Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and NOT the Green Revolution for Africa”

Cover Crops: A Simple Solution to Degrading Soil Quality

Photo Credit: Food First

Roland Bunch, a researcher and activist for Food First, published a report focused on fact that in Sub-Saharan Africa smallholder farmer’s lands have gotten smaller on average due to population increase and growing amounts of wasteland. This decrease in the size of farms has resulted in the decline of the practice of letting a large portion of such land lie fallow for years at a time, while farmers are able to feed themselves and their families with the rest of it. Without letting their lands have a rest, Bunch says, the soil quality which has held steady for some 3000 years is now declining from overuse. 

In his report, Green Manure Crops in Africa: A Report from the Field, Bunch detailed his agroecological approach to educating smallholder farmers about the use of green manure, also known as cover crops(GM/CC), which can be grown in tandem with the farmer’s regular crops. Bunch found that the right green manure/cover crop for the specific region can return nutrients to the soil while growing usable foods for local communities.
Bunch has been investigating the use of planting crops that can fertilize the soil since the early eighties. Working with an independent group of agronomists from Brazil, he has led an effort to put these methods on the agendas of prominent development agencies. He was also very important to the introduction of the campesino a campesino(farmer to farmer) movement in Central and Southern America; cover crops were a central part of that movement.