The European Union needs to ensure the merger between agrochemical giants Bayer and Monsanto don't “impair” competition. In an interview with Germany’s Rheinische Post, E.U. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Verstager said: “it is our task to ensure that farmers still have a choice over seeds, pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides even after the merger.”
Bayer’s US $63.5 billion takeover of Monsanto was announced in 2016. If the Commission gives a positive antitrust verdict in April, Bayer will become the world’s largest seeds and pesticides company.
On Dec. 15 the E.U. Commission issued a formal objection to the merger. Although their arguments were not made public, the complaint sparked hope for some who oppose the merger. However last year the Commission cleared two similarly controversial mergers in the agrochemical industry: Dow’s tie-up with DuPont and ChemChina’s purchase of Syngenta.
These two mergers were cleared on the condition they sold off some businesses. According to Reuters, Bayer plans to sell its global vegetable seeds business to rival BASF for access to its digital farming data to address E.U. antitrust concerns.
Consumer group SumofUs has warned against the merger. Hannah Lownsbrough, its executive director, claims “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.”
Environmentalists are also concerned over the expansion and consolidation of monocultures, which have been proven to be fragile and cause soil degradation, and the harming effects of Bayer and Monsanto pesticides, which they claim have decimated bee populations around the globe, and pose a threat to human life because they are a probable cause of cancer.
The Monsanto corporation has been at the center of controversy for decades. Activists claim its practices threaten food sovereignty and the livelihoods of farmers around the world, who cannot pay for the patents of Monsanto's genetically modified seeds.
Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist and physicist, says Monsanto is responsible for the death of roughly 300,000 Indian farmers. “They [Monsanto] tell them that if they sign a paper they will be multimillionaires, but the document really says that the land will belong to the corporation if they do not pay; after a couple of years they end up keeping their land, and the farmer commits suicide because he cannot pay,” Shiva explains in her book Who Really Feeds the World.