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23.08.2017 |

This merger would threaten food supplies around the world. Who will stop it?

If the Bayer-Monsanto merger is approved, the concentration of agricultural control could have major consequences for farming families and communities

• Hannah Lownsbrough is executive director of consumer group SumOfUs

It’s the worst corporate merger you’ve probably never heard of, and one that could spell disaster for our global farming system. Bayer recently started the clock for the European Union to approve its $65bn takeover of Monsanto. On Tuesday, EU regulators announced that they would now launch an in-depth assessment of the merger on anti-competitive grounds – what it calls a “phase 2 investigation” – which will take several more months.

If approved, the merger would be an extremely risky consolidation of corporate power, not to mention a serious threat to food supplies and farmers around the world. It is essential that regulators properly investigate it and take decisive action before it’s too late. Campaigns that mobilise ordinary citizens to challenge the merger will be a big part of encouraging regulators to face up to these mega corporations in the coming months.

There are good reasons to be worried. The merger would eliminate direct competition between two of the biggest players in the “traited” seed market, in other words, the market in seeds that have been developed or engineered to have certain qualities that make them more profitable. There could be major consequences for seed development, herbicide markets and robust, open research and development processes.

22.08.2017 |

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer

The Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission has concerns that the merger may reduce competition in areas such as pesticides, seeds and traits.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Seeds and pesticide products are essential for farmers and ultimately consumers. We need to ensure effective competition so that farmers can have access to innovative products, better quality and also purchase products at competitive prices. And at the same time maintain an environment where companies can innovate and invest in improved products.”

The proposed acquisition of Monsanto (US) by Bayer (Germany) would create the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company. It would combine two competitors with leading portfolios in non-selective herbicides, seeds and traits, and digital agriculture. Both companies are active in developing new products in these areas. Moreover, the transaction would take place in industries that are already globally concentrated, as illustrated by the recent mergers of Dow and Dupont and Syngenta and ChemChina, in which the Commission intervened to protect competition for the benefit of farmers and consumers.

22.08.2017 |

Bayer-Monsanto Deal Faces Deeper Scrutiny in Europe

European antitrust regulators opened an in-depth investigation on Tuesday into Bayer’s $56 billion deal for Monsanto, a transaction that would create the world’s largest integrated pesticides and seeds company.

Bayer, a German chemicals multinational, announced last year that it planned to buy Monsanto, its American agribusiness rival, but it was only this past June that it sought approval from the European authorities. The regulators had previously indicated that they would scrutinize such a deal.

“Seeds and pesticide products are essential for farmers and ultimately consumers,” Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner in charge of European competition policy, said on Tuesday in a news release. “We need to ensure effective competition so that farmers can have access to innovative products, better quality and also purchase products at competitive prices.”

In a letter to the public, Ms. Vestager said the commission had received more than 50,000 emails and more than 5,000 letters and postcards, as well as Twitter posts, expressing concerns about the transaction.

Ms. Vestager said that many of the comments expressed concern about potential negative effects of Monsanto and Bayer products, including risks to human health, food safety and consumer protection. She said the companies would be bound by “strict rules” in place to address those issues.

22.08.2017 |

EU Starts In-Depth Probe of Bayer, Monsanto Deal

BRUSSELS/FRANKFURT — The European Commission has started an in-depth investigation of Bayer's planned $66 billion takeover of U.S. seeds group Monsanto, saying it was worried about competition in various pesticide and seeds markets.

The deal would create the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company, the Commission said, adding this limited the number of competitors selling herbicides and seeds in Europe.

"The Commission has preliminary concerns that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition in a number of different markets resulting in higher prices, lower quality, less choice and less innovation," it said in a statement on Tuesday.

22.08.2017 |

EU Commission recognises that the Bayer/Monsanto merger would be highly problematic

In September 2016, German drugs and chemicals group Bayer and US company Monsanto, owner of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup and of the only GM plant currently authorised for cultivation in the EU (Mon 810 Maize), announced their intention to merge. The European Commission’s DG competition, whose validation is necessary to seal the deal, just released their preliminary review on the issue. This review identifies an impressive list of risks and problems associated with the potential merger, already opposed by hundreds of thousands of citizens.

It would, in their own words, “create the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company. It would combine two competitors with leading portfolios in non-selective herbicides, seeds and traits, and digital agriculture... Moreover, the transaction would take place in industries that are already globally concentrated, as illustrated by the recent mergers of Dow and Dupont and Syngenta and ChemChina”. Indeed, the last two “mega mergers” in the farming input sector have already aggravated significantly a very bad situation for the farmers.

The seed market in the EU is ridiculously concentrated. It is a common misconception that seeds are mainly produced by a multitude of thousands of SMEs in the EU, as these are in most cases owned totally or partially by the same few very big stakeholders. In 2014, only four companies were already controlling close to 95% of the vegetable seed market, two of these companies being Bayer and Monsanto. The Commission flags this down as a major problem, citing also the case of oilseed rape seeds.

19.08.2017 |

Glyphosate: Why did the NZ EPA ignore the world authority on cancer?

The New Zealand EPA commissioned its own report which found that glyphosate is “unlikely to be genotoxic or carcinogenic”, a significant departure from IARC’s conclusion

Read the Green Party report featured in the article below, “Why did the NZ EPA ignore the world authority on cancer?”, here.

http://gmwatch.org/files/NZ_Public_Health-Glyphosate_and_Cancer_2017.pdf

Prof Alistair Woodward, Prof Andrea t’Mannetje, Dr Dave McLean, Prof Jeroen Douwes, Prof John D Potter

University of Otago, August 16, 2017

https://blogs.otago.ac.nz/pubhealthexpert/2017/08/16/nzs-environmental-protection-authority-in-a-muddle-over-weed-killer/

18.08.2017 |

CRISPR Co-Discoverer: "I've Never Seen Science Move at the Pace It's Moving Now"

IN BRIEF: CRISPR co-discoverer Jennifer Doudna stressed the importance of using the technology with proper consideration at CrisprCon this week.

(.....)

“It was a convenience item for farmers,” observed organic farmer Tom Wiley at the convention, according to Wired. “And a profit center for corporations.” To combat genetically modified food’s perception problem, companies using CRISPR will have to make sure that the technology benefits the consumer, not just the production process.

The convention addressed CRISPR usage in many different fields: from the importance of ensuring it is used to address the widest range of medical conditions as possible, to the potentially damaging effects of gene drives on a delicate ecosystem.

Science is moving at a rapid pace, and CRISPR is too — but if we don’t carefully consider which applications are safe and valid, it could quickly cause as many problems as it solves.

18.08.2017 |

No dicamba in '18, Arkansas weed expert urges

MORRILTON -- A weed scientist said Thursday that he couldn't recommend that dicamba be allowed in the state next year after recent tests in at least four states show the herbicide's tendency to move off target and damage other crops and vegetation.

(.....)

BASF's Engenia, Monsanto's Xtendimax with VaporGrip and DuPont's FeXapan are three dicamba herbicides allowed this year by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for in-crop use, although Engenia is the only one of the three allowed in Arkansas this year by state regulators.

Another task force member, David Hundley, represents Ozark Mountain Poultry in Rogers. The company has a fast-growing poultry operation in Northeast Arkansas. "It's not just bad; it's toxic," Hundley, who manages grain production for Ozark Mountain Poultry, said of the dicamba herbicide at the June 20 Plant Board meeting.

The company has been a frequent and vocal opponent of Monsanto's dicamba-tolerant crops, saying they threaten the livelihoods of other farmers, limit those farmers' choices on what to plant and force others into planting the Monsanto crops. Ozark Mountain Poultry pays premium prices to farmers for soybeans that are not genetically modified organisms, as part of Ozark Mountain Poultry's business strategy of raising poultry that hasn't been raised on GMO feed. The company once bought 100 percent of its grain from Arkansas farmers; that percentage will be down to 50 percent next year, Hundley has said.

The Plant Board and state lawmakers began debate on a possible ban in mid-June as the number of those complaints of alleged dicamba damage approached 200.

18.08.2017 |

Leading expert of EFSA – sponsored by Monsanto?

Confidential emails reveal how Monsanto secretly influences European scientists

A number of emails published by US consumer attorneys show how Monsanto is secretly influencing European scientists behind the scenes in order to have their herbicide glyphosate declared as being non-carcinogenic. It seems that payments by Monsanto can be traced to a leading expert at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): It is likely that Jose Tarazona, head of the Pesticide Unit at EFSA, was funded by Monsanto for his participation at a conference in the US in 2017. According to available information, it can be assumed that the funding was channelled via a British toxicologist. At the conference Tarazona stated that glyphosate should not be considered to be carcinogenic.

According to the emails, in March 2016, Monsanto approached a leading British toxicologist, Allister Vale. In essence, he was asked to publicly defend the authorisation of glyphosate as a herbicide. Allister Vale agreed in principle to cooperate, but did not want to receive funding from Monsanto directly. He, therefore, proposed routing the money via Society of Toxicology (SOT) conferences. This proposal was welcomed by Monsanto.

17.08.2017 |

Nearly 900 farmers complain about controversial herbicide dicamba

MORRILTON, Ark. (KTHV) -- If you find soybeans are harder to find, many fingers will be pointed at dicamba. It's a herbicide that farmers haven't been able to use legally until this year, but already it's banned.

Governor Asa Hutchinson directed a task force to look into its long term effects.

"Dicamba is creating controversy in the largest industry in our state," said Adriane Barnes, Director of Communications for the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

It's creating controversy because some farmers love it, while others say its ruining their crops.

"We can’t use the technology safely with the issues at hand," said farmer and task force member, David Wildy.

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