Bayer’s Bid to Buy Out Monsanto Would Create the World’s Largest GMO and Pesticide Supplier
While Germany-based pharmaceutical giant Bayer, and U.S.-based Monsanto, world leader in GMO seeds and pesticides haggle over multi-billions of dollars, the livelihoods and indeed the very lives of farmers and consumers hangs in the balance. As of this writing, Monsanto has turned down Bayer’s $62 billion (USD) offer to buy the corporation, but has stated a willingness to continue talks, stating “there will be synergies.” The merger would create the world’s largest seed and pesticide company with annual sales projected to reach $67 billion.[i]
What would this mean to farmers, and to the rest of us who depend upon farmers for what we eat and the clothes we wear?
Here’s a sampling of what these two mega-corporations would have us believe:
From Bayer’s mission and values section of their official website:[ii]
“Bayer is a world-class innovation company with a more than 150-year history and core competencies in the fields of health care and agriculture. We develop new molecules for use in innovative products and solutions to improve the health of humans, animals and plants. Our research and development activities are based on a profound understanding of the biochemical processes in living organisms.
With our products, we are contributing to finding solutions to some of the major challenges of our time. The growing and increasingly aging world population requires improved medical care and an adequate supply of food.
Bayer is improving people’s quality of life by preventing, alleviating and curing diseases. And we are helping to provide a reliable supply of high-quality food, feed and plant-based raw materials.”
And from Monsanto’s statement entitled “Our Commitments: Sustainable Agriculture”:[iii]
“People around the world depend on agriculture and the hard work of farmers for their most basic needs. With global population expected to grow by 40 percent in the next few decades, agriculture will need to become more productive and more sustainable in order to keep pace with rapidly increasing demands.
Sustainable agriculture is at the core of Monsanto. We are committed to developing the technologies that enable farmers to produce more crops while conserving more of the natural resources that are essential to their success.
Producing more. Conserving more. Improving lives. That’s sustainable agriculture. And that’s what Monsanto is all about.”
Sounds great, right? Don’t jump on the bandwagon just yet.
This past weekend, over 400 protests in over 40 countries around the world decried Monsanto and its policies. Concerning the likely buyout, Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace’s EU food policy director said “It would accelerate the decrease in crop diversity while limiting consumer choice. Farmers would become even more dependent on just a handful of global players. They would find it harder to choose what they grow and how they grow it.”[iv]
Monsanto is directly to blame for over 200,000 farmer suicides in India, many of whom killed themselves by drinking Monsanto’s pesticides after the company’s claims that they would reap rich rewards from high crop yields proved not even close to true. Monsanto’s GM seeds contain a “terminator” gene that prevents the plant from producing viable seed that can be saved for the next growing season – thus forcing farmers to continue buying seed year after year. Whereas Indian farmers saving their seed spent about 7 rupees per kilogram of cotton seed, using Monsanto’s BT cotton seed cost them 17,000 rupees per kilogram – an investment required each and every year. Despite promises of harvesting 1500 kilos of cotton per year, farmers harvest an average of 300-400 kilos of BT cotton per year and run into monetary losses of 6400 rupees per acre – a far cry from the profit of 10,000 rupees per acre income promised by Monsanto’s agents.[v]
Countless lives ruined through Monsanto’s campaign to push their unsustainable and environment-damaging products onto poor, uneducated, third world farmers.
Here on the continent of Africa, Monsanto has made headway in only a few of the nearly 60 African countries, and one of those – Burkina Faso, in West Africa – is phasing out their agricultural involvement with Monsanto. Initial testing of BT cotton in Burkina Faso showed that yields were as high as Monsanto claimed, and the country went ahead with widespread planting of this supposedly insect-resistant cotton in 2009. However, BT cotton has consistently proven to be of much poorer quality than non-GMO cultivars produced within the country over many years of plant breeding – such that it was unsellable. While yields were significantly greater than next door neighbor Mali, most of the harvest went unsold. As one Burkinabe official remarked, “what’s the point of being the top producer if you can’t even sell your cotton?” Burkina Faso has already begun to reduce acres planted in GM cotton and intends to completely phase it out by 2017.[vi]
As other African countries watch the experience of Burkina Faso, it’s quite possible Monsanto could be out of luck in convincing these impoverished nations to adopt their GM seeds and related widespread pesticide use, which would be good news for African farmers and citizens. But will the takeover of Monsanto by Bayer change the game? We’ve all heard about the strong-arm tactics employed by Monsanto – a quick Google search will come up with a list of documentaries and YouTube videos decrying the GM giant – will Bayer reach their arms even further in a bid to control the destiny of the world’s agriculture?
As a poisoned environment, monoculture farms, and unhealthy food lead to more physical and mental health problems around the world, at least the “new” Bayer corporation can step in with a pharmaceutical for every need! It says it right there in their mission statement!
Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and exercise our right to make choices about the food we eat and the clothes we wear, while we still can.
[i] http://sacredheartspectrum.com/2016/05/bayer-confirms-takeover-talks-with-monsanto/[ii] http://www.bayer.com[iii] http://www.monsanto.com[iv] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/thousands-protest-against-evil-seed-giant-monsanto-ahead-of-bayer-merger-a7043196.html[v] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vandana-shiva/from-seeds-of-suicide-to_b_192419.html[vi] http://sustainablepulse.com/2016/02/01/burkina-faso-abandons-gmo-cotton-in-huge-blow-to-biotechs-africa-plans/
About the Author
Sara Corry, aka Abena Sara lives in the Eastern Region of Ghana, West Africa, close to the capital city, Accra. Tropical Africa is feeling like home now after nearly 30 years as a desert dweller! When not involved in business development, she can be found with camera in hand trying to photograph the beautiful native bird life. She writes a blog about daily life in Ghana, and is a contributor to a website devoted to wildlife conservation in Africa. She has a passion for travel and would jump on a plane to almost anywhere at a moment’s notice!