A Big Business Deal for Big Agri Business

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While the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership lost steam and then got back on track (here’s a great Salon article offering an alternative perspective to the pro-TPP rhetoric from the White House) another deal between two corporate giants, which could have a huge effect on our food system, was thankfully rejected. Monsanto, our favorite scapegoat for all of the big problems with Big Ag, recently put out an unsolicited bid to Syngenta, an ag chemical company, and this is scary for a couple of reasons. Andrew Pollack and Chad Bray of the New York Times explain the first:

The deal would create an agricultural behemoth, combining Monsanto, the world leader in seeds and genetically engineered traits (like herbicide resistance), with Syngenta, the largest producer of agricultural chemicals.

The two companies are in some sense mirror images of each other. They are similar in size, each with over $15 billion in annual revenue. But Monsanto gets most of its revenue from seeds and biotech traits; the rest comes mainly from the herbicide Roundup. Syngenta gets most of its revenue from chemicals, like weed control products, and less from seeds."

Monsanto does not have a sterling record when it comes to the environmental health and safety of our people and our planet, so the idea that this agricultural behemoth could become even bigger is worrisome. Tom Philpott in his recent article points out that currently with combined seed sales these two companies sell a third of the world's seeds and control over a third of the world’s agro-chemicals. Do consumers want one company to have that much power?

The second cause for concern over this move by Monsanto is best summed up in a tweet from Michael Pollan:

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Monsanto is showing its cards, looking towards what Philpott called a “pesticide soaked future” in his recent article on this deal. One seemingly convincing argument from the pro-GMO camp is that they can require fewer pesticides. If that is the case, then why would a GMO giant be looking to drop $45 billion on chemicals?  Philpott explains:

Insects and weeds have evolved to resist [Monsanto’s pesticides]. Farmers have responded by unleashing a gusher of pesticides—both higher doses of Monsanto's Roundup, and other, more-toxic chemicals as Roundup has lost effectiveness.

Monsanto's lunge for Syngenta and its vast pesticide portfolio signals that the company thinks more of the same is in the offing.

We as a society, simply can’t handle more chemicals. A newly updated Environmental Working Group study has found that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp (recently determined to be carcinogenic, by the way) is being sprayed dangerously close to schools - and, of course, other public places - at an alarming rate in the midwest. The prospect that a Syngenta+Monsanto mega chemical cocktail might makes it way into our neighborhoods is certainly cause for concern."

Luckily, as we stated earlier, Syngenta publicly declined this offer from Monsanto. We’re keeping a close eye on this development, though, as it could have big implications on the health of our nation.

Image via Flickr

Sources:

Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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