Green groups and opponents of the powerful corporate interests that dominate the global food system expressed dismay on Tuesday after the U.S. Department of Justice announced tentative approval of a merger between the U.S.-based agro-chemical company Monsanto and the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer.
Dubbed the “merger from hell” by critics, Trump’s DOJ reportedly mediated and approved a deal in which the two companies agreed to shed portions of their businesses as a way to alleviate monopoly concerns.
“The settlement,” reports Bloomberg, “came together after Justice Department antitrust officials pressed for significant divestitures to remedy the competition problems from combining the two companies. The companies have received antitrust approval from most jurisdictions around the world. Bayer has said it’s confident the deal will close by the June 14 deadline.”
Though predicted, the news was met with vocal displeasure by environmental groups and those opposed to a food system driven by consolidated corporate power, industrial-scale farming, and for-profit greed:
“This toxic mega-merger is another Trump Administration handout to an industry that’s poisoning people and the planet,” declared Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, in response to the announcement. “The Department of Justice is prioritizing corporate profits instead of listening to the 1 million Americans who spoke out against the merger. DOJ also failed to listen to more than 93 percent of polled farmers who are concerned about the merger.”
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a vocal foe of Monsanto, also lamented the decision. “The Justice Department should have blocked this merger,” Hauter said in a statement. “Farmers are already facing low crop prices and now they are likely to face higher prices for seeds and agrichemical inputs. The divestiture generally sold the weaker assets—Bayer’s vegetable seeds and precision agriculture technology (and data), which pale in comparison to Monsanto’s rival products. Even with the divestiture, BASF will not be able to rapidly absorb these new business lines and create a credible competitor in the hyper-consolidated seed market.”
The American people, added FOE’s Fink-Haynes, “deserve better than corporate monopolies that drive up food prices and put family farmers out of business. The DOJ’s weak divestment requirements will do nothing to stop Bayer-Monsanto from controlling more and more of our food system. This merger will damage the bargaining power of family farmers, prevent farmers from accessing diverse seed varieties, and allow seed prices to rise.”
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