What Does the Bayer-Monsanto Merger Mean for the Anti-GMO Movement?

John Egan - The Upside Blog

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

It’s been condemned as “a marriage made in hell,” “a merger of two evils” and “a five-alarm threat to our food supply.” The proposed $66 billion union between Bayer and Monsanto has provoked these impassioned critiques — and many more — from GMO foes who fear the deal will significantly harm consumers and farmers.

GMOs, Our Food & the Bayer-Monsanto Merger

Ken Roseboro, editor and publisher of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, says he thinks a Bayer-Monsanto combo likely would increase the presence of GMOs in our food, with the merged company wielding its enhanced power to introduce new GMOs and hamper GMO labeling efforts. Bayer and Monsanto are global giants in the production of seeds and pesticides, making them major purveyors of GMOs.

The Wall Street Journal says the merger would bring Bayer “deep into the lucrative but socially controversial business of genetically modified crops.” According to The Guardian newspaper, a combined Bayer-Monsanto would control 29 percent of the global seed market and 24 percent of the global pesticide market.

“Just six corporations already dominate worldwide seed and pesticide markets. Additional consolidation will increase prices and further limit choices for farmers, while allowing Monsanto and friends to continue pushing a model of agriculture that has given us superweeds, superbugs and health-harming pesticides,” says Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, a senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network.

The proposed Bayer-Monsanto pairing comes at a time of massive consolidation in the seed and pesticide sectors; a deal to join Dow and DuPont is in the works, as is a pairing of ChemChina and Syngenta.

“Concentrating this much power — 60 percent of the world’s seed supply — in just three companies creates further monopolization of agriculture seeds, which can lead to higher seed costs and fewer options for farmers, and could lead to higher food costs for consumers,” Roseboro says.

In recent testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Robert Fraley, chief technology officer at Monsanto, said his industry “is undergoing a healthy and sorely needed transformation.”

“We understand the concerns about consolidation … . But you must also put it in context, as this type of change enables more innovation and delivers better products to the farm even faster,” Fraley said. “Farmers are best served when companies invest more in new technologies and accelerate the pace of their R&D, which in turn spurs robust competition.”

Michael Sligh, leader of Rural Advancement Foundation International’s Just Foods Program, says consolidation is the last thing that the U.S. agriculture sector needs. Rather, he says, farmers need more regionally and locally adapted seeds.

“All farmers experience the negative consequences of seed consolidation,” says Kiki Hubbard, director of advocacy for the Organic Seed Alliance. “Organic farmers in particular are already underserved by the industry because the dominant players only invest in seed technologies and chemical production systems that are in conflict with organic farming practices.”

Roseboro says that if government regulators approve the Bayer-Monsanto merger, the Monsanto brand, which has been a lightning rod for non-GMO advocates, probably will disappear because of its tarnished reputation. “But I’m sure activists will go after Bayer just as strongly,” he says.

If you feel strongly about the Bayer-Monsanto merger, Roseboro suggests you contact the federal lawmakers who represent your area to express your opposition. Also, you can sign petitions being circulated by opponents such as CREDO Action, MoveOn.org and SumOfUs.

Alexander Rony, senior campaigner for the Sierra Club, says government regulators “have a clear path to deny this fiasco.”

“The Bayer-Monsanto merger is a clear danger to society. One corporation should not be able to control both the seed and pesticide markets — it’s the fox guarding the hen house,” Rony says. “Farmers and consumers alike are raising the alarm that this deal would reduce competition, risk the environment and raise prices — to the sole benefit of Bayer.”