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.



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


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).


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”

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”

Bill Gates on the “Best Practices” for the Developing World

Pushing Pro-Business Policy Change by Funding a Pro-Business Ratings System

By Johanna Lundahl, AGRA Watch Intern

Bill Gates on the “Best Practices” for the Developing World
Bill Gates sits with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on a panel at the World Bank Spring Meetings. Photo Credit: The World Bank

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation(BMGF) is a major donor to a World Bank affiliate known as Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA), a group that rates 40 developing countries on their policies that affect agriculture and agribusiness markets. The Oakland Institute, a partner of AGRA Watch, critiqued the connection in their April article, With a Little Help From Bill Gates, The World Bank Creates it’s Own Aid Conditionality. According to the EBA, it’s mission is “…identifying and monitoring regulations that negatively affect agriculture and agribusiness markets.” It frames these ratings as a way to encourage higher levels of food production, believing that this will combat world hunger, claiming that it’s encouraging countries to become more efficient, while “increasing market competitiveness and growth”. The Oakland Institute, as well as the UN disagree with this idea, understanding that hunger is not caused by insufficient food production.

Continue reading “Bill Gates on the “Best Practices” for the Developing World”

Control of Africa’s Seed

In an article titled “Is Africa about to Lose the Right to Her Seed?” Glenn Ashton discusses how the international seed industry is threatening Africa’s food security, agricultural integrity and traditional methods of seed saving. As Ashton explains, the World Bank, The American Seed Association, government agencies, philanthropists and biotech companies all aim “to create a harmonised system of control around the presently fragmented African seed trade regime and create a system based on what is projected as modern best practice.” However, this “system of harmonized control” includes Africa’s obligation to strictly adhere to the 1991 Act of the International Union for the Protection of Plant Varieties (UPOV). “Because of the stringency of UPOV, the real impact of this will be the loss of control of the seed supply by indigenous small farmers. The consequences for food production and social cohesion across the continent will be dire,” Ashton explains.

Although, organizations such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) suggest that new seeds being developed will be freely shared to benefit smallholder farmers, AGRAWatch contends that the reality of imposing restrictive, neo-colonial regulations on the heart of Africa’s agriculture will only perpetuate insecurity and conflict for peasant farmers.

For more information on Glenn Ashton’s piece, please visit The South African Civil Society Information Service.

The African Centre for Biosafety’s Latest Report on AGRA

In its newest report on AGRA, the African Centre for Biosafety considers AGRA’s work with seeds, specifically as a means for profit-making and for commercialization of agriculture. The report aims to look deeper into AGRA’s philosophy, as well as to look into specific programs including Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) and its Soil Health Programme (SHP) to better determine AGRA’s long term goals. The report notes that some of the goals include “hybrid seed, biotechnology (including genetic modification), synthetic fertilisers, irrigation, credit provision and general commercialisation of agricultural production,” and analyzes how these goals will be implemented and practiced.

Read the ACB’s new report on AGRA here:


Donors and governments sidelining sustainable farming methods in the new ‘Green Revolution’ in Africa, Christian Aid warns in new report.

HEALTHY HARVESTS: The benefits of sustainable agriculture in Africa and Asia
A Christian Aid report, September 2011

Read the whole report here: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/Healthy-Harvests-Report.pdf

Executive Summary:

This report argues that smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia can improve agricultural productivity, food security and livelihoods by adopting sustainable approaches that utilize resource-conserving technologies and that draw upon their own knowledge.


Many thousands of communities in countries such as India, Cambodia, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and Kenya are already benefiting from sustainable farming but they need more support and, above all, these approaches need to be scaled up.




Seventy per cent of the world’s nearly 1 billion hungry people are smallholder farmers and the rural landless. Marginalised smallholder farmers have long been locked in a cycle of low productivity, lack of assets and services and weak market power. In addition, they face a number of newer challenges. Many crop and livestock producers are deeply vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Land degradation and groundwater depletion are increasingly posing a threat to food security and the livelihoods of rural people. Meanwhile, scope to expand agricultural production into new lands is increasingly limited, and competition for existing farmland is increasing too: from foreign investors, industry and urban developers. Rising food prices since the onset of the global food crisis of 2007 to 2008 have posed a further challenge to smallholder farmers who tend to be net food buyers and who also have to meet the costs of rising fertiliser prices.

This report asks the question: what kind of agriculture can address poverty and hunger in a world in which the climate is changing, food demand is growing and land, soil and water resources are increasingly under pressure; and in a way that preserves the natural resource base for future generations?


In recognition of the challenges facing agriculture, donors and governments have in recent years made welcome new political and financial commitments to smallholder farming, especially in Africa. However, as this report outlines, the solutions for Africa advocated by donors, governments and the initiatives of private foundations have tended to centre around the promotion of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which are costly for farmers and very often resourcedepleting. This drive for a new ‘Green Revolution’ for Africa has tended to sideline more sustainable, farmer led approaches. For example, recent input-subsidy programmes in Africa have brought significant short-term benefits in certain cases, but they are looking increasingly unsustainable and risk sidelining investment in greener alternatives. And our research identifies concerns that the agro-dealer networks funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are selling ever more quantities of agro-chemicals to farmers, thus marginalising the space for alternative approaches that are more sustainable.

The experience of Asia’s Green Revolution holds some very important lessons for policy-makers globally. There is no denying its achievement in lifting yields and reducing hunger, especially from the 1960s to 1980s. But this process of change began to stall in the 1990s and this is posing major challenges for Asian governments today. One cause is the heavy burden on the natural resource base of the widely-adopted, intensive monocropping system. Soil degradation has meant farmers have had to increase the quantity of fertiliser used in order to maintain their yields. This has in turn affected their profit margins and is one factor behind increasing levels of farmer debt. There have been a range of other serious consequences of the Asian Green Revolution (for example, the loss of on-farm biodiversity, social inequalities, and the dangerous effects of pesticides on the health of farmworkers), which should give governments more than a pause for thought.

We define sustainable agriculture as a way of producing food that balances the economic, social and environmental aspects of farming.

It is an approach that minimizes or avoids chemical inputs, uses resource-conserving technologies and materials available on the farm, and draws and builds upon the capacity of farmers and community organisations. These principles are already being successfully adopted by farming communities in Asia and Africa, including with the support of Christian Aid partners.

A growing body of evidence – both academic and data and analysis available from development programmes – demonstrates that such sustainable approaches can be highly effective in boosting production, incomes and food security; supporting soil and water conservation, on-farm biodiversity and crop health; improving resilience to natural disasters and climate change; lowering greenhouse gas emissions; and empowering communities. For example, in

Cambodia, the adoption of new growing techniques for rice, which minimise the use of agro-chemicals and water (known as the ‘system of rice intensification’) has helped increase yields for farmers from an average of 2.5 tonnes per hectare to 3.7 tonnes per hectare. In Zimbabwe, Christian Aid partners ZimPro and the Dabane Trust have assisted over 3,000 households to adopt conservation agriculture. This enabled farmers to increase significantly their yields of sorghum, millet and maize – helping to improve household food security. And in other countries, farmers have been able to cut back on pesticide use by adopting natural methods of tackling pests. This has delivered both income and health benefits.

However, these approaches remain severely under-supported. To scale them up governments and donors need to significantly re-balance their current focus on quick-fix, external input intensive ‘solutions’, towards a much greater support for sustainable, agro-ecological approaches. This should come through a re-balancing of government subsidies towards resource-conserving technologies and by building these approaches into revived public research and extension programmes that place smallholder farmers, their associations and networks at the centre of decisionmaking. National seed laws should primarily focus on promoting farmers’ rights and access to seeds of their own choosing, be they modern or local seed varieties. They should also enshrine the right of farmers to freely breed, conserve and exchange traditional varieties. Governments will also need to increase poor people’s access to land and smallholders’ security of tenure – both are important pre-requisites for rural food security and the adoption of sustainable agriculture. Governments need to encourage and harness the potential of the private sector to play a role in supporting sustainable farming, while also putting in place appropriate regulations, for example to ensure that private agro-dealers do not replace government extension service as a source of advice on inputs for farmers.

This must also be accompanied by initiatives that enable the creation of, and access to, markets that return fair prices for small-scale producers, and global trade policies that safeguard the position of domestic producers in national food systems.