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.


New Report: For-Profit Animal Science Undermines Safe Food, Trade

Brussels and Washington, D.C.— A new report (.pdf) published today by Food & Water Europe exposes the enormous influence that corporate drug companies play in the peer-reviewed science surrounding risky veterinary drugs widely used in the United States but forbidden in the EU. The U.S. approach of allowing the marketplace to determine the safety of risky veterinary drugs rather than independent science—as was the case with the beef cattle growth-promoter Zilmax, which was removed from the U.S. market in 2013—makes any move toward regulatory “harmony” via an EU-U.S. trade agreement a serious threat to safety of the EU food system.

Food & Water Europe EU Food Policy Analyst Eve Mitchell said, “It’s clear that some favourable safety findings on the drugs widely used to produce food are effectively bought and paid for by the companies that stand to profit. The cornerstones of the scientific method, like independent replication of findings, simply aren’t being honoured, and many U.S. farmers are giving their animals questionable drugs every day because of it. This is not the kind of food production we want or need, yet a trans-Atlantic trade deal will reinforce these safety problems for everyone.”

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a vast trade deal under negotiation between the U.S. and EU. Highly controversial topics like genetically modified (GM) food and hormone treatments in meat animals have all but stalled progress of TTIP, which was supposed to conclude negotiations later this year. “Governments on both sides insist neither regulatory system will be eroded by TTIP and that food safety will continue to be guaranteed, but today’s report shows safety isn’t even clear now,” says Mitchell.

A major problem is with the scientific journals that publish the studies. Industry groups play an enormous role in the production of scientific literature, authoring journal articles, funding academic research and also serving as editors, sponsors or directors of the same scientific journals where much of their research is published.

Mitchell said, “It’s not just a matter of EU and U.S. regulators agreeing that their counterparts consulted the science and concluded drugs are safe when that science is comprised. Now, consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are being asked to place our faith in “harmonised’ approval systems.”

“This report documents the problems in animal science research, but the same weak disclosure rules, industry influence and lack of independent research appears to pervade much of agricultural research, from GMOs to cloning to herbicides. It’s huge.”

Mitchell added, “There’s a lot of talk about ‘free trade” out there, especially when in comes to TTIP, but it’s full of holes. To function properly, genuinely free markets rely on complete information available to all, and this report shows how deep the disclosure problem goes. The EU is not immune to these problems.”

Food & Water Europe calls on scientific journals to disclose the funding sources for papers they publish and says the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also needs to do more to ensure the research it uses to determine the safety of products in the food chain has been thoroughly and independently assessed.

Mitchell concluded, “The merits of EFSA’s ongoing project on openness and transparency will be called into question unless it does more to ensure it is not relying on for-profit science. EFSA should publish the authorship affiliations and funding sources of the science it consults. Some large portion of the science EFSA consults is likely to have been biased by industry authorship and funding, but the public can’t see where this happens. This has to change.”

Read For Profit Animal Science Undermines Safe Food Trade:

Contact: Eve Mitchell, Food & Water Europe (UK time), +44(0)1381 610 740, [email protected]

EU Vote Key to Keeping Clones Out of Our Food

January 16, 2015—Brussels. Next Wednesday, members of the EU Environment Committee will vote on measures that are a critical step toward keeping clones out of Europe’s food supply.

The European Commission is proposing a new regulation that clarifies and consolidates the rules governing the trade and import of breeding animals and their breeding material, like semen, ova and embryos, which are routinely used to breed farm animals.

MEPs have tabled amendments to the proposed regulation that would require the documentation that already accompanies such transactions to indicate if the animal or breeding material is the product of cloning or clone descendants.

Food & Water Europe Food Policy Analyst Eve Mitchell said, “Congratulations to our MEPs for spotting that the Commission seems to have forgotten about clones in its draft. Farmers have a right to know what they are buying, and we need to know where clones are so we can keep them out of our food.”

The EU trade in breeding material with the U.S. is a particular concern because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers clones safe to eat and does not require any labeling. In 2010 the U.S. Secretary for Agriculture admitted he didn’t know if clones are in the U.S. food supply. What’s worse, there is only a voluntary moratorium standing between EU importers and U.S. farmers or breeders. “Europe needs to protect itself with reasonable controls,” said Mitchell. “Cloning for food should be an open and shut case.”

In 2008 the European Group on Ethics in Science and Technology said cloning for food is not justified because of the suffering it causes. The Parliament voted for a full ban on all clones and their offspring in July 2010, and called for a formal moratorium until such laws could be brought forward. In 2011 the Commission, Council and Parliament all agreed that tracing clones would be needed for whatever rules on cloning are finally enacted.

Yet the Commission isn’t keeping up. It tabled “provisional” rules in 2013 that ban food from clones but not food from clone offspring. Those rules also controversially rejected the Parliament’s call for clear labels on such foods, offered as a compromise after years of wrangling over a ban, saying the work needed to secure labels would be “disproportionate” and therefore “cannot be justified” because it would require “meticulous investigation into the accompanying documentation”. This is exactly the kind of documentation discussed in this new regulation, so ensuring those papers note where cloning is used is essential for labeling if clone offspring are sold as food.

Mitchell added, “We are assured that our meat if fully traceable, and that this will be reinforced after the EU-wide contamination of meat supplies with horsemeat last year, so checking documentation cannot possibly be considered too onerous. Labels on meat from clone offspring are perfectly possible and the very least we should expect.”

Food & Water Europe believes the Commission approach to cloning in food is hypocritical and ethically indefensible. Since you can’t have clone offspring without clones, and since cloning is clearly cruel and unnecessary, all food from clones and their offspring should be banned. Anything short of a full ban makes clear labels non-negotiable.

Mitchell said, “The revelation in August 2010 that clones were in the UK food supply clearly demonstrated the need for regulation and enforcement. We must ensure that any new laws are future proofed to enable the full ban on clones and their offspring in our food that the Parliament, the public and common sense demand.”

Eve Mitchell, Food & Water Europe (UK time), +44(0)1381 610 740, [email protected]

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