Monsanto, You Can Run but You Can’t Hide

Story at-a-glance -

  • The U.S. Department of Justice has approved the merger of Monsanto and Bayer, which means just three companies now dominate the global seed and pesticide market
  • Consolidation promotes lower-quality products as there’s less incentive for innovation when there’s less competition. Less competition also typically results in price increases. Both are expected to occur as a result of this merger
  • The first week of June marked the end of the Monsanto name, but that doesn’t mean the company, its products and everything associated with either, are going away — its name has simply changed to Bayer
  • As the world’s now largest seed and pesticide company, Bayer will have a direct impact on a majority of farmers in the U.S., EU and Great Britain
  • Organic Consumers Association needs your financial support to step up the campaign against Bayer through public education, litigation, and funding of U.S. Right to Know and the Ramazzini Institute global study on the hazards of glyphosate. Please donate today

By Dr. Mercola

Last May 29, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved (with conditions) the merger of Monsanto and Bayer.1,2 The decision came on the heels of the European Union's (EU) approval in March. Bayer's takeover of Monsanto — the largest all-cash buyout on record3,4,5 — means just three companies now dominate the global seed and pesticide market.6

In addition to the Bayer-Monsanto merger, the DOJ has also approved the merger of Dow and DuPont, and the Federal Trade Commission recently approved ChemChina's acquisition of Syngenta. Together, these three merged behemoths — Bayer, ChemChina and DowDuPont — will control 61 percent of the global seed market.

The same trio, plus BASF, will also control 70 percent of the pesticide market.7 Of these, Bayer will hold the largest share — about a quarter of the seed and pesticide markets combined. In 2011, Monsanto had 26 percent of the global seed market and Bayer had 3 percent. Bayer sold 17 percent of the total agrochemicals; Monsanto had 7 percent of the chemical market.8

As a condition of the DOJ's approval, Bayer will sell some of its assets to BASF, including its soybean, cottonseed and glufosinate weed killer businesses, which overlap with Monsanto's and were antitrust sticking points. So, the first week of June marked the end of the Monsanto name,9 but that doesn't mean the company, its products and everything associated with either, are going away. As noted by Forbes,10 "its history, products and culture will linger. Bayer can't change Monsanto's history."

Bayer Will Face Same Resistance as Monsanto

According to a Bayer June 4 statement,11 Monsanto's product line will keep their original brand names in the Bayer portfolio, but the Monsanto name is being retired. The merged entity will retain the Bayer name. Cultural integration is predicted to be a challenge for the new, now much larger Bayer. Bayer also has a shadowy past of its own that is in need of rehabilitation.

"Yes, Bayer introduced the world to Aspirin and Phenobarbital. But it also trademarked Heroin and, when it was IG Farben during World War II, used concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers and drug testers with disastrous results," Forbes writes,12 adding: "Even with that context, there are two special challenges to onboarding leaders from Monsanto into Bayer:

1) Monsanto's history as a private company and 2) the 'toxicity' of the Monsanto brand earned by its manufacture and marketing of DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, recombinant bovine growth hormones, genetically modified crops and seed patenting model and enforcement …

There's every reason to expect Monsanto's people to be more results-oriented and less caring, more hierarchical and more driven by authority than Bayer's people. These are non-trivial cultural hurdles to overcome."

Adrian Bebb, a Friends of the Earth Europe food and farming campaigner commented on the merger, telling The Guardian:13

"Bayer will become Monsanto in all but name unless it takes drastic measures to distance itself from the U.S. chemical giant's controversial past. If it continues to peddle dangerous pesticides and unwanted GMOs then it will quickly find itself dealing with the same global resistance that Monsanto did."

What Kind of Food System Do You Want?

"The merger of corporate giants Monsanto and Bayer begs a vital question — what kind of agriculture do we really want?" John Vidal writes in a recent op-ed for The Guardian.14 As the world's now largest seed and pesticide company, Bayer will have a direct impact on a majority of farmers in the U.S., EU and Great Britain.

Needless to say, the company will also wield tremendous power over what ends up on the plates of consumers. "It will be able to influence what and how most of the world's food is grown, affecting the price and the method it is grown by," Vidal writes. In stark contrast to Bayer and other biotech companies, which sells patented seeds at a premium and disallows seed sharing, Debal Deb, an Indian plant researcher, focuses on cultivating as wide a variety of crops as possible, and gives the seeds away for free.

Deb currently grows 1,340 different varieties of traditional Indian rice on donated land in West Bengal. Seeds from these crops are then distributed to more than 7,000 farmers across the country, with one condition: They must grow them and give some of the resulting seed away to others. As described by Vidal:

"This seed-sharing of 'landraces,' or local varieties, is not philanthropy but the extension of an age-old system of mutualized farming that has provided social stability and dietary diversity for millions of people. By continually selecting, crossbreeding and then exchanging their seed, farmers have developed varieties for their aroma, taste, color, medicinal properties and resistance to pests, drought and flood."

A Return to Agricultural Roots Can Save Us

This inherent wisdom of these ancient practices cannot be underestimated or overstated. While multinationals like Bayer want you to believe they are the saviors of mankind and that without them we would all starve, the converse is actually true. While monoculture has only been around for a few decades, ramifications of the dramatic loss of diversity is already apparent. The entire ecosystem suffers and, as a result, healthy crops are more difficult to grow and sustain.

Multinational seed companies insist consolidation is the best way to ensure the continual development of successful seed varieties, but what we really need is an explosion of diversity — that's how the best seeds are brought to the fore. Best of all, no genetic tinkering in the lab is necessary. There's absolutely no need to swap genes between animal- and plant kingdoms to "improve" on nature.

Rather than spawning innovation, consolidation actually promotes lower-quality products as there's less incentive for innovation when there's less competition. Less competition also has a tendency to drive prices skyward.

As just one example, the price of a bag of seed corn has risen from $80 to $300 over the past decade alone — a price hike attributed to the consolidation of seed companies and reduced competition. The good news is farmers around the world are starting to pay attention to these facts, and are pushing back. As noted by Vidal:

"Nearly 10 million of the poorest farmers now use the system of rice intensification, which has been proven to increase rice, wheat, potato and other yields dramatically by stimulating the roots of crops. Agro-forestry techniques that grow trees and shrubs among crops is proving more productive, as is land restoration. Farmers' groups in India and across Latin America are developing their own seed companies in order to avoid the new corporate monopolies."

Your Support Is Needed Now

oraganic consumer association check

In response to the Monsanto-Bayer merger, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has launched a boycott against Bayer, highlighting the fact that ditching the Monsanto name is not going to get them off the hook. You can follow the campaign and get the latest news updates on Facebook.15

OCA also needs your financial support to step up the campaign against Monsanto-Bayer through public education, litigation, funding of U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) and funding the new comprehensive Ramazzini Institute study on the hazards of glyphosate. You'll learn more about these action items in the section below.

By making a donation today, you are supporting all of this crucially important work. OCA is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, and charitable donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Please consider making a donation today. You can make an electronic payment by clicking the donate now button below, or mail a check to:

Organic Consumers Association
6771 South Silver Hill Drive
Finland, MN 55603

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Monsanto, You Can Run but You Cannot Hide

While Bayer defends the safety of Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, just as vigorously as Monsanto has in the past, mounting independent research suggests it may be one of the most hazardous farming chemicals out there. Together with the nonprofit organization Beyond Pesticides, OCA filed a lawsuit16 against Monsanto on behalf of the general public in April 2017, charging Monsanto with deceptive labeling, marketing and sale of Roundup.

According to the complaint, Monsanto "actively advertises and promotes its Roundup products as targeting an enzyme 'found in plants but not in people or pets.' These claims are false, misleading and deceptive." The fact of the matter is the enzyme glyphosate targets is indeed found in both animals and humans, as it is found in our gut bacteria. Studies also suggest glyphosate may be carcinogenic, and may affect the cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems in both animals and humans.

"No reasonable consumer seeing these representations would expect that Roundup targets a bacterial enzyme that is found in humans and animals and that affects their immune health," the complaint states, adding "Monsanto affirmatively states that the enzyme targeted by glyphosate is not found in people and pets, and fails to disclose to consumers the material information that the enzyme targeted by glyphosate, and the shikimate pathway it's designed to inhibit, are found in people and pets."

Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but on March 31, 2018, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly denied the motion,17 ruling18 that enough evidence had been presented to support the allegation that Monsanto's labeling is misleading consumers. This is a significant "win" and, with your help, OCA will continue to keep the pressure on through that legal channel.

Help OCA Support Global Glyphosate Study

OCA is also sponsoring a global glyphosate study by the world-renowned Ramazzini Institute in Italy. Stage 1 will investigate the chemical's carcinogenicity and chronic toxicity potential.

Already, the pilot phase19 has revealed that daily ingestion of glyphosate at the acceptable daily dietary exposure level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alters sexual development in rats, produces changes in the intestinal microbiome and exhibits genotoxic effects. In response to the results, OCA director Ronnie Cummins said:20

"For years, the U.S. EPA has dismissed consumer concerns about glyphosate-based weed killers in their drinking water and their food, claiming that exposure to the chemical at low levels is harmless. This new pilot study confirms what many responsible scientists have been saying all along: There is no such thing as 'safe' levels when it comes to glyphosate, especially when it comes to children.

In fact, the EPA established what it calls 'safe' levels without having any scientific evidence to back up its claim because, until now, there have been no comprehensive publicly available peer-reviewed studies of the potential health impact of glyphosate exposure at or lower than the EPA's guidelines.

This new study confirms that consumers should be alarmed when products such as Ben & Jerry's ice cream test positive for glyphosate at any level — despite corporations' claims that these levels are 'harmless.'"

Your Donation Will Also Support USRTK and Regeneration International

In addition to the continued financial support provided to the Ramazzini Institute's glyphosate study, OCA is also dedicated to continue its support of the USRTK's work21 — a nonprofit organization that has proven exceptionally capable of pursuing and extricating the truth by making full use of freedom of information act (FOIA) requests and other legal means.

For example, internal emails obtained via FOIA requests filed by USRTK correspondent and director of research Carey Gillam, revealed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found glyphosate residues in all foods sampled to date. In a June 5, 2018 update, OCA writes:22

"It's the FDA's job to conduct residue testing on food. It's the responsibility of the EPA to regulate pesticide residues on food. It stands to reason then that the two taxpayer-funded agencies would communicate closely with each other on any food testing involving glyphosate or any other pesticide. That's why USRTK has filed a series of FOIA requests with both agencies …

The FDA has produced at least some of the documents requested by USRTK. But the EPA …  has failed to produce documents requested in a July 2016 FOIA request, and also had failed to respond to a February 2017 request for related industry communications.

That failure led Gillam and USRTK to sue the EPA last month.23 If the public already knows that FDA tests found glyphosate, and USRTK already has related FDA documents, why bother suing the EPA for that agency's related communications?

'When you use FOIA, it's like getting pieces of a puzzle,' said Gillam, explaining that the FDA and other federal agencies routinely redact, or black out, large sections of the documents they turn over. 'To put that puzzle together, to get the whole picture, often requires requesting records from multiple sources. We still may not get everything, as it seems the agencies are increasingly embracing secrecy, but it's our responsibility to try to get to the truth.'"

In addition to exposing the dark side of chemical agriculture, OCA will also continue to promote the alternative through its sister organization Regeneration International,24 which provides educational services and resources about regenerative farming practices and techniques.

Regeneration International also provides farmer training through its partnership with Via Organica and its teaching farm, the Main Street Project's regenerative poultry project, described in "Changing the World — One Chicken at a Time." None of these projects can proceed without your support, however. So, please, consider making a generous donation to OCA today.

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