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

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Obama Administration Signs Monsanto Protection Act

Legislation was passed last week to continue funding the US government.
Regrettably, this legislation also included a provision titled the Farmer Assurance Provision (dubbed by critics as the Monsanto Protection Act) which works to protect GE seeds from litigation.
AGRA Watch disapproves of this provision because it allows the biotech industry to evade regulatory and judicial review, therefor, permitting the industry to set its own conditions to sell GE seeds. A blog posted by Doug Gurian-Sherman of Union of Concerned Scientists, states “The so-called biotech rider (S. 735), attached to the continuing resolution in the U.S. Senate, was designed to override successful lawsuits. It would overturn rulings by the courts that have protected citizens from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actions that subvert the legal obligations of the agency to protect farmers and the environment.”
The bill is set to expire in six months, and it remains unclear whether or not the provision will be short-lived. However, as Gurian-Sherman asserts, “Once a country throws open its doors to the biotech industry, it can expect a similar effort to weaken regulations for food safety and environmental protection.”
If interested in learning more, a recent Salon article titled How Monsanto Outfoxed the Obama Administration, also discusses how the biotech industry influences government regulations.

Patent Wars Reach Supreme Court

Last week the Supreme Court heard the case of farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman vs. Monsanto regarding the legal question of whether the sale of a patented seed falls under the general doctrine of “exhaution” of the patent monopoly (that the sale of a patented item ends the patentee’s control over its uses), or if a seed should be treated differntedly from a manufactured artifact.

To ensure farmers will buy new seeds each season, Monsanto requires that farmers only plant the company’s genetically engineered seeds for one season. Bowman planted Monsanto’s GE soybean seeds from a local elevator and consequently violated Monsanto’s restrictions. He appealed the decision to pay the seed giant company $84,000 to the Supreme Court.

The questioning of the lawyers by the Justices during the hearing indicated that the Court will probably conclude that patent control of seeds extends past their sale (ie, that “exhaustion” does not apply to “self-replicating” patented items).

Groups such as Save our Seeds (SOS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) submitted briefs to support Bowman and challenge Monsanto’s restrictive policies. CFS Executive Director, Andrew Kimbrell, states, “Mr. Bowman’s case represents a systemic crisis in U.S. agriculture. Through a patenting system that favors the rights of corporations over the rights of farmers and citizens, our food and farming system is being held hostage by a handful of companies. Nothing less than the future of food is at stake.”

Monsanto joines the World Business Council for Sustainabl​e Developmen​t

Monsanto recently joined an organization called The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). To many, this seems highly ironic since so many of Monsanto’s activities clearly undermine sustainable development. Its agricultural development initiatives have led to soil degradation, contributed to a viciously cyclical dependency on Monsanto products and further impoverished the very same people they claim to help.

Monsanto will be joining other WBCSD members with highly publicized incidents of exploiting vulnerable populations and the environment such as Coca-Cola Company, Dow Chemical, DuPont, General Electric, Syngenta, Nestle and BP.

For more information, please visit http://www.wbcsd.org/about/members.aspx.

Controversial French Study Finds Tumors in Rats Fed GM Corn

ImageA controversial study released last month by French scientists revealed that rats fed Monsanto’s GM corn were more likely to die prematurely, and suffer from tumors and severe liver and kidney damage. Rats were fed on corn of the variety NK603, created to resist Monsanto’s Roundup Ready pesticide, and researchers from the University of Caen observed that “fifty percent of male and 70 percent of female rats died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.” Although Monsanto claims that this study is guilty of reaching “ubstantiated conclusions,” the study has succeeded in drawing the biotech giant and its’ surrounding controversies back into the public eye.

Read more about the study here:

Egypt Struggles to Regulate GMOs

        Since 2008, when Egypt officially agreed to allow the planting and selling of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, the country has received two shipments of the product. The most recent shipment, made in January of this year, was seized by the

Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture because it had not been formally approved by the Ministry of the Environment. Such approval is consistent with Egypt’s ratification of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2003. The purpose of this Protocol is to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of GMOs between countries. However, there has been some controversy in Egypt because the Biosafety law drafted by the country was blocked by the Ministry of Agriculture, a move that many saw as politically motivated, and a result of meddling done by Monsanto. The Ministry of Agriculture eventually agreed to the law, but the country is still waiting on its promulgation. 

Read the full story of Egypt’s struggle to regulate GMOs here:
http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/egypt-s-legal-battle-regulate-monsanto-s-gmos-0

Bill Moyers and Vandana Shiva Discuss the Global Consequences of GMOs

ImageCheck out Bill Moyers’ interview with Vandana Shiva as they discuss the consequences of GM seeds on small-scale farmers and the environment, as well as the impact that globalization has had on the food industry so far.
Shiva founded a movement to protect native seeds in India, and has been a leader in the global struggle against GMOs. She explains what seed privatization means in India and the rest of the world, and covers the actions of Monsanto, Cargill, and the Gates Foundation.