Block Bayer-Monsanto Merger, Says Major New Legal Study

Friends of the Earth Europe, WeMove.EU, Food & Water Europe, SumOfUs

For immediate release: Monday October 16

Brussels, October 16 – The proposed merger between Bayer and Monsanto should be blocked under EU competition law, according to a major new study from University College London to be released on World Food Day.

The authors of the report claim that the European Commission should be obliged to block the merger – which is currently under an in-depth investigation from the European Commission – even on a narrow reading of EU competition law.

The analysis concludes that the “Baysanto” merger should be blocked as:

  • It would reduce competition: It concentrates even further an already tightly-packed agriculture sector. Just three mega-companies (ChemChina-Syngenta, DuPont-Dow and Bayer-Monsanto) would own and sell about 64% of the world’s pesticides, and 60% of the world’s patented seeds.
  • It would raise prices and farmer dependency: One-stop inclusive packages of all services needed for agriculture (seeds, pesticides, and also “digital farming” products) would lock farmers into the company’s value chain, making them technologically dependent and facing price hikes in seeds and pesticides.
  • Asset selling won’t solve the crisis: Even if the Commission forces the companies to sell off some products the market is already so concentrated that divesting particular products will not address the merger’s negative effects on future competition in the seeds markets.
  • It would stifle alternative businesses: The three mega-corporations controlling the global food value chain would “entrench the market power of the dominant players for the decades to come”, thereby freezing more sustainable forms of agriculture

The academics also call on the European Commission to broaden its investigation of the merger to take into account the full social and environmental costs, as they are likely to “lead to important risks for food security and safety, biodiversity… [and risks for] affordable food prices, high quality of food, variety and innovation”.

Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager has more than enough arguments to block the unholy alliance of Bayer and Monsanto, and send a strong signal that the EU is prepared to stand up to these mega-corporations in order to protect farmers, citizens and our environment.

“The consolidation taking place between these agriculture giants would have major impacts on the future of our countryside, rural livelihoods and our environment. It is vital that the European Commission widens its investigation to ensure that we retain the possibility to move agriculture onto a sustainable and resilient footing to help counter climate change and halt biodiversity loss.”

Earlier this year over 200 civil society organisations called on European Competition Commissioner Vestager to stop the current wave of mergers in the agri-business sector. Almost 900,000 citizens have signed petitions calling for the Commission to act.





TTIP and Genetically Engineered Foods


Common Resources

Get the endnotes in the .pdf

In 2013, the United States and the European Union (EU) began negotiations to create the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). The trade relationship across the Atlantic is already the number one economic relationship in the world, making up a third of all trade in goods and services and about half of global economic output. Both the United States and EU claim that a new trade agreement with the EU would enhance job creation and competitiveness by eliminating trade barriers and harmonising regulations — but the real winners would be big biotech and food companies, at the expense of consumers and the environment.


EU Version: The So-Called Scientific “Consensus”: Why the Debate on GMO Safety is Not Over



Learn more in the report.

Biotechnology seed companies, aided by advocates from academia and the blogosphere, are using their substantial resources to broadcast the myth of a “scientific consensus” on the safety of genetically engineered crops (hereafter GMOs), asserting their data is in and the debate is over. This public relations campaign, helped along by industry front groups, has caught the attention of some of the most visible news outlets in the country, with biotech advocates portraying GMOs as akin to climate change deniers, out of step with science.


EU GM Crop Bans: Commission and Council Must Heed Parliament



Brussels — Food & Water Europe welcomed today’s vote strengthening proposed rules for national or regional bans on genetically modified (GM) crops and called on the EU Commission and Council to respect the views of the Parliament in the negotiations now triggered.

EU Food Policy Advisor Eve Mitchell said: “The Parliament has rightly rejected the totally unacceptable involvement of biotech companies in national GM policy development, and it has improved the Council’s proposal in a number of ways. The ball is now firmly in the Council and Commission courts — will they listen to the democratic representatives of EU citizens, or will they listen to biotech lobbyists?”

The discussion on so-called opt-outs, whereby an EU Member State or region can ban GM crops even if the crops are authorised by Europe as a whole, has been fraught since it began in 2009. Proposals from the Council, which have failed to gain Parliamentary approval, have been legally flawed and uncertain to give bans the sound footing needed to survive any challenge from the biotech industry or international trade partners.

The Council’s latest proposal, formally adopted by the Council in July, was seriously problematic. The Parliament’s Committee today passed a series of amendments that remove many of the most offensive issues, including the involvement of GM crop applicants in the decision to grant a ban. The Parliament also added mandatory measures to prevent GM contamination. However, complex EU operating procedures mean that these disagreements between the Council and the Parliament will now be taken up in informal talks to try to find a deal that everyone can accept. How the discrepancies will be closed is now the key issue.

Mitchell said: “There is still a long way to go, but the Parliament has once again clearly rejected the Council’s approach to this issue. We call on both the Council and the Commission to respect the Parliament’s position as a first step to securing the meaningful bans on GM crops which many citizens want urgently.

“Pro-GM governments like the UK must accept that trying to force GM crops onto an unwilling public has not worked and will not work. Citizens want protection from GM contamination, the right to make decisions without interference from vested interests and the simple right to decide what they will eat and what they reject. Talk about democracy is nice, but this is what it looks like on the ground. Unresponsive Ministers and unelected Commissioners can have a deal on GM crops if they want one, but the Parliament sets the rules.”

Contact: Eve Mitchell, EU Food Policy Advisor, Food & Water Europe, +44 (0)1381 610 740 or emitchell(at)fweurope(dot)org

UK GM Report: Vested Interests Miss the Point



Statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Brussels—“Food & Water Europe dismissed today’s United Kingdom report calling for more GM trials in the UK as “a chronically flawed effort from blinkered vested interests. The UK’s pro-GM government asked a group of GM scientists and lobbyists what we should do about GM food and crops. Since many of the scientists involved make money from GM, it’s no surprise they want more of it. But this situation begs the question: shouldn’t those advising the Government on GM be a bit more independent, or at least a little more distant from the profits?

“The report  aims for a shift to U.S.-style regulation based on “substantial equivalence,” rather than the EU’s clear case-by-case precautionary evaluation of each GMO in turn. This attempt to portray GMOs as “just the same” also undermines the very labels that help EU consumers find, and roundly reject, GM products on supermarket shelves.

“The biggest problem with the report is that it misses the point—if industrial food production was going to end hunger, it would have done so by now. We need a much smarter approach to feeding ourselves, with more respect for what farmers do, a sentiment that was reflected in a report called Wake Up Before It’s Too Late, which the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development issued last year.

US Family Farmers Warn EU Ministers Against GM Cultivation in Advance of Critical Vote



Brussels —The National Family Farm Coalition, representing family farmers across the US, has sent a clear warning against any escalation of GM crop reliance on chemicals in Europe. 

The message was sent in a letter to every EU Agriculture and Environment Minister as EU officials prepare for a key vote on the authorisation for cultivation of GM maize Pioneer1507, which is both tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium (sold as Liberty or Basta) and contains the GM Bt gene, making the crop toxic to pests. 

Katherine Ozer, executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition in the US warned Ministers:

“Farmers nationwide have experienced extensive (and expensive) losses from 2,4-D and dicamba drift, and crops resistant to them are not yet even deregulated. We are very concerned that escalated reliance on these and similar toxins could lead to the demise of fresh water, tree and wildlife cover, and all non-GM crops – ultimately our environment and food system as we know them.”

Multiple objections to authorising Pioneer 1507 for cultivation in Europe include:

  • It is reliant on glufosinate ammonium, an herbicide with considerable health and environmental risks that has not been properly assessed in the EU, making this application premature at best.
  • The crop also carries the GM Bt gene, making it toxic to pests. Existing GM Bt crops are already failing in fields in the US, Brazil and India as the target insects develop resistance. The Brazilian Government is now warning that reliance on Bt crops is causing the severe economic damage facing GM farmers. Maharastra State Agriculture Minister Ramakrishna Vikhe-Patil said of Bt cotton: “In the long run, we want to eradicate it because it is water-intensive and utterly unsuited to our conditions since 82% of the 4.2 million hectares of Bt cotton cultivation is done in drought-prone areas…[Agriculture researchers and universities] did not do enough to alert the Government to the potential dangers of Bt cotton.”
  • EFSA admits Pioneer 1507 will harm non-target insects, like butterflies. There has been no assessment of its impact on other pollinators, which already face a host of threats endangering our future food production.
  • GM agriculture is not wanted by EU citizens and is not necessary, as most

recently demonstrated by Heinemann et al: Despite the claims that GM might be needed to feed the world, we found no yield benefit when the United States was compared to W. Europe, other economically developed countries of the same latitude which do not grow GM crops. We found no benefit from the traits either. 

Food & Water Europe’s EU Food Policy Advisor Eve Mitchell commented:

“The science shows non-GM is the future of food and farming. The courts told the Commission to process this application, but it has not been sufficiently scrutinised so we do not know if it is safe, so there is every reason for Member States to reject it. 

“We want a healthy, productive future for European agriculture, and we can clearly see that countries that rushed to jump on the GM bandwagon are now suffering as the technology fails. European Ministers need to think very carefully about the warnings from farmers in the US and the Governments of both Brazil and Maharashtra – growing GM causes worse problems than it solves.”

Only two other GM crops are permitted in EU fields. One is the industrial starch potato Amflora, which was approved by the Commission amid considerable controversy and has never recovered from the debacle in its first year of cultivation when another, unauthorised GM potato contaminated the seed stock and much of the crop had to be destroyed. The authorisation for Amflora was annulled on 13 December by the EU General Court, which found that the Commission had not properly followed necessary procedures when it approved the crop. The other GM crop grown in the EU is the controversial MON810 Bt maize, which is banned in several EU countries and is the subject of ongoing scientific controversy over its negative environmental impacts.  

For further information contact: 

Eve Mitchell, EU Food Policy Advisor, Food & Water Europe  +44 (0)1381 610 740 

Katherine Ozer, Executive Director, National Family Farm Coalition (US) +1 202 543 5675

National Family Farm Coalition unites and strengthens the voices and actions of its diverse grassroots members to demand viable livelihoods for family farmers, safe and healthy food for everyone, and economically and environmentally sound rural communities.