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    Global food security and sovereignty could be threatened as China moves closer to embracing GM food

    EXCERPT: [China’s] hesitation to approve genetically modified food production suggests the road to commercialisation is a rocky one. Sections of China’s middle class are increasingly looking towards more “natural” organically produced food, and recent food scares have not helped to boost public confidence.

    ChemChina-Syngenta deal: why it matters

    Adrian Ely
    Eco-Business, 29 Aug 2016
    http://www.eco-business.com/news/chemchina-syngenta-deal-why-it-matters/
    [links to sources at the URL above]

    * Global food security and sovereignty could be threatened as China moves closer to embracing GM food

    A US national security panel this week cleared a deal proposed by state-owned Chinese company ChemChina to acquire Syngenta, the Switzerland-based seed and biotechnology agribusiness. At US$43 billion (287 billion yuan), it will be the largest foreign acquisition ever by a Chinese firm.

    The deal also requires approval by antitrust authorities in Europe and the United States, but having cleared the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), chaired by the US Secretary of the Treasury and attended by representatives of 16 US departments and agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, it is likely to be given the go-ahead by the end of the year.

    Environmentalists have long decried the concentration of power in the global food system. This deal, along with other pending and possible acquisitions, may leave just three companies with more than 75 per cent of the global market in seeds. So it is little wonder that politicians and civil society groups have reacted with concern at the prospect of further consolidation.

    In the United States – which accounts for more than one quarter of Syngenta’s sales – Republican Iowa senator Chuck Grassley raised concerns about the effect of the deal, explaining that the food and agricultural sectors are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. “I remain troubled about the long-term effects of continued consolidation in the seed industry and what that will mean for farmers who have fewer companies to buy seed from,” he told WNAX radio.

    Two US organisations – the National Farmers Union and Food and Water Watch – had also urged CFIUS to reject the deal, citing national security risks, the transfer of critical technologies and negative impacts on farmers and consumers.

    Their letter argued that the deal “accelerates the international consolidation of the food and agribusiness industries to the detriment of American farmers, rural communities, and consumers,” and suggested it would transfer critical patented technologies (not only in seeds, but also high-tech agrichemicals) into Chinese ownership, as well as “the weaker safety and security culture of Chinese chemical companies”.

    The move by ChemChina seems to suggest that in the medium to long-term, the Chinese government is likely to embrace the production of genetically modified (GM) food. China’s approach to genetically modified crops builds on decades of huge state investment in research and development and its more recent support of emerging agri-biotech firms.

    The company’s chairman Ren Jianxin, who is known for his strong government links and his reputation for acquiring both domestic and foreign firms, claims that his experience of living in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution taught him “what farmers want and how they work the land”.

    If “what farmers want” is genetically modified seeds, it seems that Beijing agrees with him. The 13th Five Year Plan for the first time promised to actively promote GM crops in the period from 2016 to 2020, while also stressing the need for stringent oversight.

    Yet at the same time, the hesitation to approve genetically modified food production suggests the road to commercialisation is a rocky one. Sections of China’s middle class are increasingly looking towards more “natural” organically produced food, and recent food scares have not helped to boost public confidence.

    A spokesperson from Greenpeace linked the delayed re-approval of permits for GM rice in 2014 to “public concern around safety issues”, and the identification of illegal GM maize in Liaoning earlier this year (again reported by Greenpeace) has further illustrated how difficult it is to effectively regulate the technology.

    In China, an open letter, apparently signed by the former minister for the chemical industry as well as anti-GMO activists, pointed to negative impacts of agri-chemicals on Chinese farmers and consumers and called for the case to be opened to China’s National People’s Congress representatives, committee members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, representatives of the democratic parties and consumers.


    This story was originally published by Chinadialogue under a Creative Commons’ License and was republished with permission. Read the full story.

    Originally Posted: GMWatch.org


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    The Associated Press

     

     


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    Big farms are about to get a lot bigger.

    With six agricultural giants on the verge of merging into three separate companies, consumers and farmers are feeling uneasy about the global implications and how it might impact the food system.

    WRITTEN BY Chase Purdy

    Top executives from Bayer, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta today (Sept. 20) testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, making a case for why federal regulators should approve the mega-mergers, which stand to fundamentally reorganize global agriculture. (Executives from the sixth company involved in the consolidation, China National Chemical Corp., declined an invitation to appear at the hearing.)

    The executives in attendance argued that the proposed mergers would combine their companies’ expertise and allow for greater efficiency in serving farmers and consumers. But whether that efficiency is worth the side effects of massive consolidation—possible price hikes and less competition in the marketplace—is an open question. In essence, should people put faith in three big companies to shepherd consumers and farmers into a world that can responsibly feed a growing global population?

    Here’s what’s on the table

    • On July 20, shareholders at Dow Chemical and DuPont agreed to a $59 billion merger that would bring under one umbrella two of the largest US chemical makers. The deal is awaiting US antitrust clearance.
    • On Aug. 22, Chinese state-owned China National Chemical Corp. was cleared by US regulators to proceed with its $42 billion purchase of Swiss chemical and seeds company Syngenta. The deal, subject to US scrutiny because of Sygenta’s American business interests, marks the largest purchase of a foreign firm in Chinese history.
    • On Sept. 14, Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and chemical giant, said it had reached an agreement to purchase US seed company Monsanto for $66 billion. If the deal is approved by US regulators, it would create the world’s largest seed and agriculture chemicals company.

    The consolidation of these six highly competitive companies into three juggernauts has left many farmers and consumers uneasy. Consumers advocates say they worry the mergers will usher in a “new era of sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides.” Farmers worry that less competition in the marketplace will give the merged companies an ability to increase prices of seeds and chemicals—something that would be particularly harmful during a time when US farm incomes are dropping.

     

     

    That’s part of the case that National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson made to senators, warning that approval of the mergers would lead not only to higher prices, but also less innovation and fewer products from which farmers can choose. Even the mighty American Farm Bureau lobby expressed some trepidation.

    “Any one of these [merger and acquisition] activities could certainly be well understood; all of them occurring at the same time is the challenge,” said Bob Young, chief economist for the lobby. “Obviously you’d rather have six companies…but if the economics aren’t there to justify six companies, it just won’t happen.”

    The corporate perspective

    For their part, the company executives stressed that, in a world where internet companies such as Google can quickly pivot to manufacturing driverless cars and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos can invest in rockets, the nimbleness of agriculture will be paramount.

    “Change can be rough for farmers,” testified Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer. “But in our industry, it is changing. Farmers are best served with companies investing more in new technology.”

    Fraley noted that 15 years ago, Monsanto invested $300 million in research and development; this year it has invested $1.5 billion. By way of comparison, he said big-name technology firms such as Apple are spending upwards of $10 billion a year on R&D.

    Left unsaid by the companies was that, with the exception of Bayer, the US and European giants have experienced shrinking sales. As Republican senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina put it, Dow’s numbers “look like the EKG of a heart attack patient.”

     

     

    From that perspective, the mergers are as much about maintaining profit and staying financially healthy as they are about the development of new technologies. It’s not just a case of American farmers needing more technologically advanced tools; it’s also a white flag from big agribusiness companies struggling with the fact that, despite all their efficiencies and inventions, the US market is demanding supplies that let farmers grow more profitable and less complicated organic and all-natural foods.

    Whether that trend continues remains to be seen. For now, the mergers are a clear sign that companies that invest in high-tech seeds and chemicals are going through a rough patch, and they think consolidation is their way out of it.

    Originally Posted: qz.com


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    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that three Hawaii counties cannot regulate genetically modified crops or pesticides.

    Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan upheld a lower court’s decision that state laws regulating potentially harmful plants pre-empt county ordinances governing agriculture.

    As a result, such ordinances that a federal judge had overturned won't go into effect.

    In 2014, Maui County voters approved a ban on genetically engineered farming. Kauai County had imposed notification requirements for pesticide use by large companies, while Hawaii County had prohibited open-air testing of genetically modified crops.

    Callahan ruled that the state’s pesticide law is comprehensive, and that the Legislature meant for it to be “exclusive of additional, local rules.”

    The decision was a victory for seed companies that perform research in Hawaii such as Monsanto and Syngenta.

    Dan Clegg, head of business operations for Monsanto Hawaii, told Honoluu Civil Beat that the company will continue “to support the communities in Maui, Molokai and Oahu where our approximately 1,000 local employees live and work.”

    Syngenta spokeswoman Laurie Yoshida said the company is happy with the ruling, adding that it continues to voluntarily report its pesticide use on Kauai through the Good Neighbor Program.

    George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, which pushed for the bans, told The Associated Press that his group is “considering all legal options, including appeal.”

    Originally Posted: bizjournals.com


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    As Americans gather with their families for Thanksgiving this week, new government data offers a potentially unappetizing assessment of the U.S. food supply—Residues of many types of bug-killing pesticides, fungicides and weed killing chemicals have been found in roughly 85 percent of thousands of foods tested.

    Data released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows varying levels of pesticide residues in everything from mushrooms to potatoes and grapes to green beans. One sample of strawberries contained residues of 20 pesticides, according to the Pesticide Data Program report issued this month by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. The report is the 25th annual such compilation of residue data for the agency, and covered sampling the USDA did in 2015.

    Notably, the agency said only 15 percent of the 10,187 samples tested were free from any detectable pesticide residues. That's a marked difference from 2014, when the USDA found that more than 41 percent of samples were "clean" or showed no detectable pesticide residues. Prior years also showed roughly 40-50 percent of samples as free of detectable residues, according to USDA data. The USDA said it is not "statistically valid" to compare one year to others, however, because the mix of food sampled changes each year. Still the data shows that 2015 was similar to the years prior in that fresh and processed fruits and vegetables made up the bulk of the foods tested.

    Though it might sound distasteful, the pesticide residues are nothing for people to worry about, according to the USDA. The agency said "residues found in agricultural products sampled are at levels that do not pose risk to consumers' health and are safe …"

    But some scientists say there is little to no data to back up that claim, stating that regulators do not have sufficient comprehensive research regarding how consumption of residues of multiple types of pesticides impact human health over the long term, and government assurances of safety are simply false.

    "We don't know if you eat an apple that has multiple residues every day what will be the consequences 20 years down the road," said Chensheng Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "They want to assure everybody that this is safe but the science is quite inadequate. This is a big issue."

    The USDA said in its latest report that 441 of the samples it found were considered worrisome as "presumptive tolerance violations," because the residues found either exceeded what is set as safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or they were found in foods that are not expected to contain the pesticide residues at all and for which there is no legal tolerance level. Those samples contained residues of 496 different pesticides, the USDA said.

    Spinach, strawberries, grapes, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon were among the foods found with illegal pesticide residue levels. Even residues of chemicals long banned in the U.S. were found, including residues of DDT or its metabolites found in spinach and potatoes. DDT was banned in 1972 because of health and environmental concerns about the insecticide. 

    Absent from the USDA data was any information on glyphosate residues, even though glyphosate has long been the most widely used herbicide in the world and is commonly sprayed directly on many crops, including corn, soy, wheat and oats. It is the key ingredient in Monsanto Co.'s branded Roundup herbicide, and was declared a probable human carcinogen last year by a team of international cancer scientists working with the World Health Organization. But Monsanto has said glyphosate residues on food are safe. The company asked the EPA to raise tolerance levels for glyphosate on several foods in 2013 and the EPA agreed to do so.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also annually samples foods for residues of pesticides. New documents obtained from the FDA show illegal levels of two types of insecticides—propargite, used to kill mites, and flonicamid, usually aimed at killing aphids and whiteflies—were recently found in honey. Government documents also show that DEET, a common insect repellant, was recently detected by regulators in honey, and the herbicide acetochlor was found on mushrooms.

    FDA scientists also reported illegally high levels of the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam found in rice, according to information from the agency. Syngenta has asked the EPA to allow for higher residues of thiamethoxam permitted in numerous crops because the company wants it to have expanded use as a leaf spray. That request is still pending, according to an EPA spokeswoman. 

    The most recent public residue report issued by the FDA shows that violation rates for pesticide residues have been climbing in recent years. Residue violations in domestic food samples totaled 2.8 percent for the year 2013; double the rate seen in 2009. Violations totaled 12.6 percent for imported foods in 2013, up from 4 percent in 2009. 

    Like the USDA, the FDA has skipped glyphosate in decades of testing for pesticide residues. But the agency did launch a "special assignment" this year to determine what levels of glyphosate might be showing up in a small group of foods. An FDA chemist reported finding glyphosate residues in honey and several oatmeal products, including baby food.

    Private testing data released this month reported the presence of glyphosate residues in Cheerios cereal, Oreo cookies and a variety of other popular packaged foods. 

    Questions on Cumulative Impacts

    Whether or not consumers should worry about food containing pesticide residues is a matter of ongoing dispute. The trio of federal agencies involved in pesticide residue issues all point to what they refer to as "maximum residue limits" (MRLs), or "tolerances," as guidelines for what they say is considered safe. The EPA uses data supplied by the agrichemical industry to help determine where MRLs should be set for each pesticide and each crop the pesticides are expected to be used with. 

    As long as most of foods sampled show pesticide residues in food below the MRLs, there is no reason to worry, the USDA maintains. "The reporting of residues present at levels below the established tolerance serves to ensure and verify the safety of the Nation's food supply," the 2015 residue report states. The agrichemical industry offers even broader assurances, saying there is nothing to fear from consuming residues of the chemicals it sells farmers for use in food production, even if they exceed legal tolerances. 

    But many scientists say the tolerances are designed to protect the pesticide users more than consumers. Tolerances vary widely depending upon the pesticide and the crop. The tolerance for the insecticide chlorpyrifos on an apple, for instance, can be very different than the amount of chlorpyrifos allowed on citrus fruits, or on a banana or in milk, according to government tolerance data.

    In the case of chlorpyrifos, the EPA has actually said it wants to revoke all food tolerances because studies have linked the chemical to brain damage in children. Though the agency has long considered residues of chlorpyrifos safe, now the agency says, they may not be. 

    The "EPA cannot, at this time, determine that aggregate exposure to residues of chlorpyrifos, including all anticipated dietary exposures and all other non-occupational exposures for which there is reliable information, are safe," the EPA said last year. Dow AgroSciences, which developed chlorpyrifos in the 1960s, is protesting the EPA efforts, arguing chlorpyrifos is a "critical tool" for farmers. In the latest USDA residue report, chlorpyrifos was found in peaches, apples, spinach, strawberries, nectarines and other foods, though not at levels considered to violate tolerances.

    The EPA defends its work with tolerances, and says it has been complying with the Food Quality Protection Act that requires the EPA to consider the cumulative effects of residues of substances "that have a common mechanism of toxicity." The agency says that to set a tolerance for a pesticide, it looks at studies submitted by pesticide companies to identify possible harmful effects the chemical could have on humans, the amount of the chemical likely to remain in or on food, and other possible exposures to the same chemical. 

    But critics say that is not good enough—assessments must consider more realistic scenarios that take into account the broader cumulative impacts of many different types of pesticide residues to determine how safe it is to consume the mixtures seen in a daily diet. Given that several pesticides commonly used in food production have been linked to disease, declines in cognitive performance, developmental disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children, there is an urgent need for more in-depth analysis of these cumulative impacts, many scientists say. The National Research Council has declared that "dietary intake represents the major source of pesticide exposure for infants and children, and the dietary exposure may account for the increased pesticide-related health risks in children compared with adults."

    "With the ubiquitous exposure to chemical mixtures, assurances of safety based on lists of individual toxicity thresholds can be quite misleading," said Lorrin Pang, an endocrinologist with the Hawaii Department of Health and a former advisor to the World Health Organization. 

    Tracey Woodruff, a former EPA senior scientist and policy advisor who specializes in environmental pollutants and child health, said there is a clear need for more research. Woodruff directs the program on reproductive health and the environment at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. 

    "This is not a trivial matter," she said. "The whole idea of looking at cumulative exposures is a hot topic with scientists. Evaluating individual tolerances as if they occur in solo is not an accurate reflection of what we know—people are exposed to multiple chemicals at the same time and the current approaches do not scientifically account for that." 

    Critics say scrutiny of pesticide safety is likely to only soften given President-elect Donald Trump's decision to name Myron Ebell to oversee transition efforts at the EPA. Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is a staunch advocate of pesticides and their safety.

    "Pesticide levels rarely, if ever, approach unsafe levels. Even when activists cry wolf because residues exceed federal limits that does not mean the products are not safe," states the SAFEChemicalPolicy.org website Ebell's group runs. "In fact, residues can be hundreds of times above regulatory limits and still be safe."

    "The mixed messages make it hard for consumers to know what to believe about the safety of pesticide residues in food," said Therese Bonanni, a Clinical Dietitian at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. 

    "Although the cumulative effect of consuming these toxins over a lifetime is not yet known, short-term data suggests there is certainly a reason to be cautious. The message to consumers becomes very confusing."

    Originally Posted: ecowatch.com


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    Vote will take place 27 January

    The European Commission has confirmed that it is planning a vote on Friday 27 January where it will push for the first GMO cultivation authorisations since 1998.

    The crops in question include two new strains of GM maize — Syngenta’s Bt11 and DuPont Pioneer’s 1507 — as well as the re-approval for Monsanto’s MON810, which is already grown in Spain and Portugal.

    There’s more information here:
    http://www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/17233

    Please share this information with all your contacts and get in touch with officials to ask them to oppose cultivation.

    The Greens have created an online mobilisation site so that you can easily email or tweet to the key ministers in your country, in the national languages:
    http://greens-efa-service.eu/nogmo/

    Here you can find the agenda for the meeting on 27 January:
    http://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/plant/docs/sc_modif-genet_20170127_agenda.pdf

    Originally Posted: gmwatch.org


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    A key vote on Friday saw European nations oppose the European Commission’s proposal to authorize the first new GM crops for cultivation since 1998, but failed to achieve the necessary majority for the proposal to be formally shelved.

    The decision concerns GM maize types from Syngenta and Dow-Pioneer (technical names BT11 and 1507) and the renewal of the only GM maize currently allowed to be grown in the EU (Mon810 from Monsanto). All three crops have been modified to produce insecticide in their own cells. The two new crops can also tolerate being sprayed with glufosinate, a highly toxic herbicide produced by Bayer.

    EU member states were voting on a proposal to authorize two new strains of GM maize, and the re-authorization of the one GM crop currently grown in the EU (also maize).

    Thirteen member states voted to reject the new crops, while eight voted in favor. Twelve voted to remove the one existing GM crop from EU fields and ten to keep it. However, despite the convincing rejection of new crops, neither decision met the qualified majority voting bar and it is now up to the European Commission to decide what to do next.

    The European nations voted as follows:

    Renewal of Mon810:

    12 Member states voted against the proposal: Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, France, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovenia

    10 Member states voted in In favor: Czech Republic, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom

    6 Member States abstained: Belgium, Germany, Croatia, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia

    Authorization of 1507 and Bt 11:

    13 Member States voted against: Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, France, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden

    8 Member States voted in favor: Estonia, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Finland, United Kingdom

    7 Member States abstained: Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Croatia, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia

    GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill said:

    “With Europe’s nations divided, the Commission must protect our right to grow and eat GM Free by sending these crops packing. GM Bt maize is designed to kill pests but its impact on beneficial insects like butterflies is poorly understood. National bans are supposed to give countries control over their farms but no measures have been put in place to protect those who have used the “opt-out” mechanism (including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) from contamination. Maize pollen travels kilometers and is no more likely to respect a national border than to turn left at a roundabout so keeping GM out of your own back yard is never going to be enough.

    “The UK’s vote in favor of all three GM maize crops, despite each being banned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, should ring alarm bells for anyone who wants to protect biodiversity and consumer choice in post-Brexit Britain.”

    Originally Posted: sustainablepulse.com


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    Originally published: http://ow.ly/OnmH3092eML 

    February 13, 2017

    Jeff Sessions, Attorney General U.S. Department of Justice

    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530

    Re: The Proposed Dow-DuPont, Monsanto-Bayer and Syngenta-ChemChina Mergers

    Dear Mr. Sessions,

    On behalf of our millions of members and supporters around the country, the undersigned organizations oppose the impending mergers of the world’s largest agrochemical and seed companies. The proposed mergersof Dow Chemical with DuPont, Monsanto with Bayer AG, and Syngenta with ChemChinaare each problematic on their own, with many likely negative impacts on farmers, businesses, workers, and consumers. When taken together, they pose the threat of major oligopolistic outcomes in the industries of farming inputs, research, development, and technology.

    We urge the United States Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation to determine the impacts of these takeovers (alone and most importantly in combination) and to enjoin the mergers when it becomes clear that these impacts will prove detrimental to farmers, businesses, workers, consumers, the environment and our American food system.

    In December 2015, U.S. chemical giants Dow Chemical and DuPont agreed to a $130 billion merger.1 They plan to streamline agricultural operations, creating a company that unites DuPont’s and Dow’s seed and crop protection businesses. The resulting company would be one of the world’s largest seed and pesticide conglomerates, controlling 17 percent of global pesticide sales and approximately 40 percent of America’s corn-seed and soybean markets.2 This year, multi- billion dollar German pharmaceutical and chemical giant, Bayer AG, made an offer of $66 billion to acquire Monsanto, Co., which Monsanto accepted.3 The resulting company would be the largest agribusiness in the world, selling 29 percent of the world’s seeds and 24 percent of pesticides.4 Even before the mergers began, these seed and agrochemical companies held inordinate market power, with Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta collectively controlling more than half of the global seed market.5

    It is predicted that if all three deals were to close, the three resulting companies would control nearly 70 percent of the world’s pesticide market, more than 61 percent of commercial seed sales and 80 percent of the U.S. corn-seed market.6,7 Such a heavily consolidated seed and agricultural input industry makes it easier for cartel-like tacit collusion that raises prices for farmers and other buyers and ultimately consumers while stifling innovation that is propelled by healthy competition in the marketplace. Predictably, more concentration of power and less competition will lead to reduced responsiveness to documented farmer and consumer desire for ecologically sound technologies that are cost-effective and sustainable, meaning less choice in the marketplaces for seeds, inputs and foods.

    Taken together, these mergers pose significant potential threats to U.S. security interests. If allowed to pass, they could undermine food security in the United States and worldwide; disrupt trade flows;8 and accelerate the international consolidation of the food and agribusiness industries to the detriment of American farmers, rural communities and consumers. Further, the mergers would eliminate head-to-head competition in agricultural biotechnology innovation, crop seed and chemical markets and reduce opportunities for pro-competitive research and development (R&D) collaborations.9

    The mergers will eliminate competition, hurt our economy and hamper U.S. investments and innovation
    There is a strong antitrust case against these mergers, as has been outlined in investigations by the Konkurrenz Group, the American Antitrust Institute and the Agricultural and Food Policy Center of Texas A&M University, among others.10,11,12 These studies detail market trends that demonstrate that the merging parties “have been the dominant players in the relevant markets and do not indicate any trend of reduced concentration,” and as a result, the merger should be enjoined.13 In the case of the Bayer AG and Monsanto merger, Monsanto has already been investigated for antitrust violations in Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Virginia.14

    These mergers will exacerbate and worsen consolidation that the industry has been experiencing for many years. In 1996 there were 600 independent seed companies; this number dropped to 100 by 2009.15 This concentration resulted in crop seed prices more than doubling relative to the prices farmers received for commodity crops between 1994 to 2010.16

    The “Big Six” firms—Monsanto, Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, Dow and DuPontheld more than 95 percent of trait acres for corn, soybeans and cotton in the U.S. by 2009, with seed containing Monsanto traits accounting for 90 percent of those acres.17 Bayer-Monsanto and Dow-DuPont corporations would intensify their dominance among a shrinking pool of similarly situated firms. These mergers would likely create substantial vertical integration between traits, seeds and chemicals currently produced independently by Dow, DuPont, Bayer and Monsanto. The result would be a more tightly integrated platform of components that are bound together both economically and technologically for the purpose of creating exclusive packages of traits, seeds and chemicals that do not “interoperate” with rival products.

    The mergers would likely further limit farmers’ choices of the best seeds to suit their needs and would force independent seed producers and customers to rely primarily on Bayer-Monsanto and Dow-DuPont traits.18 This will likely raise entry barriers for smaller rivals and increase the risk that they are foreclosed from access to technology and other resources needed to compete effectively. Monsanto already possesses a 97 percent share for soybean traits, a 75 percent share for corn traits and a 95 percent share for cotton traits. A combined Bayer-Monsanto would have a greater (and for cotton, a dominant) share of the seed market where its traits are promoted. These market sharesby any antitrust metricwould be considered monopolistic.19 Monsanto, as the dominant owner and developer of patented seed traits, can already exert considerable market power through its cross-licensing agreements.20 Many independent seed companies do not hold desired patented traits. They must enter into licensing agreements with the patent owner to include the

    patented technology in their seeds.21 Further, due to seed patents and licensing, farmers are only allowed to plant seeds for one crop season.22 This places an unfair burden and increased cost on farmers, as they have to pay for seeds each year. As a result of these mergers, farmers will likely have to pay more for seeds as market competition diminishes.

    Merged Bayer AG/Monsanto and Dow/DuPont companies would be monoliths that hold significant control over farmers’ choices and the development of new technologies. The market dominance of these companies and costs associated with changing investments will make it even harder for small, upcoming companies to enter the market. The mergers will further reinforce this dynamic through a lock-in effect on investment as wealthy investors that hold stocks in the merged companies will have little to no incentive to reinvest in innovative start-ups.

    The mergers additionally threaten competition-driven innovation in the merged companies themselves, because a concentrated market in seed traits discourages aggressive competition- based innovation to capture new customers, instead encouraging profit making from monopoly rents that are easier to maintain. Increased concentration in the traits, seed and herbicide markets will mean fewer firms are responsible for many of the new innovations that drive growth in agricultural productivity. Innovation will likely continue on the path of chemical dependence instead of exploring more sustainable, lower cost forms of technology that could wean our dependence on chemical intensive forms of agriculture.

    We are already experiencing elimination of funding for research and development (R&D) as a result of these mergers. These reductions in R&D would also lead to a significant loss in jobs in R&D sectors and are already hurting U.S. workers. In the months since DuPont agreed to buy long- time U.S. rival Dow, executives have cut at least $300 million from its research budget and laid off as many as 700 employees in R&D.23 Further, DuPont planned to cut a total of 10 percent of its research budget for 2016 and reduce spending on new plants and equipment by 20 percent in 2016.24

    Opposing these mergers will protect U.S. farmers and consumers

    Farmers are themselves very concerned about the mergers. The majority of the national farming associations in the U.S. have expressed concern that the mergers will negatively impact American farmerslivelihoods by increasing input costs, reducing competition and decreasing research and development. National farming associations concerned with the mergers include: The American Farm Bureau,25 the American Soybean Association,26 the National Farmers Union,27 the National Family Farm Coalition and the National Corn Growers Association.28

    Because the outsized market power of the companies involved would grow as a result of the mergers, these companies would be able to unilaterally raise input prices for farmers, hurting rural economies across the United States and leading to increased prices for consumers as well. As an example, a combined Bayer AG-Monsanto company would control 70 percent of the southeast cottonseed market. The price of cotton could rise over 18 percent as a result of the mergers, according to a study from Texas A&M University.29

    In addition, there is a growing interest and investment in farming by small businesses, minority farmers and farmer families that are growing and bringing to market a variety of specialty and ethnic crops, hoping to create niche markets in the wholesale and retail sectors. Using a variety of growing methods, they are carving out a place in rural communities that are helping to build and develop these rural areas. Such farmers need a fair playing field, which would be precluded by consolidated market power in the farm input sectors.

    Furthermore, the companies in question impose “technology fees,” which make up a significant portion of seed costs. These fees, that were once a line item in farmers’ budgets, are now combined into the total costs of seeds, making it difficult for farmers to compare competitors’ prices and costs over time. Seed prices have generally continued to rise faster than commodity prices over the past 20 years and have outpaced growth in yields as well.30

    These mergers will likely impact the food chain from farm to table. Farmers will continue to cultivate food for consumers and for their livestock, even if their costs increase. This means that the increase in cost may be passed along to the consumers to enable farmers to maintain competitive profit margins. As Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) said at the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Consolidation and Competition in the U.S. Seed and Agrochemical Industry, “[The] troubling, in fact alarming, potential consequences of these mergers...include less innovation, higher agricultural input prices, less choice for farmers and high food prices for consumers.”31

    These mergers should also be examined in the context of exacerbating income inequality. Although there are many views, some conflicting, on income inequality itself, no developed nation can escape its responsibility to maximize the opportunities for its poor to be able to afford a broad range of nutritional foods. Today, in most developed nations, the relatively low price of food products minimizes the adverse impact of often growing income inequality. Many consumer groups, as indicated by U.S. Senator Blumenthal, believe that these mergers have the potential to substantially alter the present relatively affordable basic food industry.

    In addition to higher prices for consumers, the merger could result in harms to agricultural workers. Some farmers will likely offset declining profit margins by cutting back on labor costs. For example, they may hire fewer workers and make them work harder, offer lower wages and benefits, and some unscrupulous growers may even engage in wage theft.

    The mergers will increase overall pesticide use and harm the environment

    The proposed mergers will aggregate the power of companies that promote chemical intensive agricultural practices that are harmful to human health, pollinator populations and the environment. 

    Many agricultural pesticides pose threats to the health of farmers and farmworkers as well as rural agricultural communities  and are associated with a range of negative health outcomes for consumers. The proposed mergers are likely to result in a more highly concentrated pesticide industry that will be in a greater position to influence regulators. The resulting conglomerates could exert their influence to lower use restrictions of pesticides currently on the market and to push for broader approval of new productsall with a lessened regard for human safety. The mergers could reinforce unsustainable dependence on genetically engineered (GE) crops that are developed to be used in combination with herbicides. Over 70 percent of all GE crops are engineered to be herbicide-resistant. 35  most commonly engineered of these traits is "RoundUp" tolerance. The active ingredident in Roundup, glyphosate, was designated a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.36 Reliance on these systems leads to more overall chemical use.37 

    Increased planting of herbicide-resistant GE crops in recent decades has led to the development of superweedsand super bugsas plants and insects evolve to resist the chemicals used against them.38  For example, in 2012, glyphosate-resistant weeds covered 61 million acres; this number rose to 84 million acres in 2014.39 In response to the decreased efficacy of glyphosate, Bayer developed Liberty Link crops engineered to be tolerant to Liberty, a combination of ten different herbicides. Companies are also turning to older herbicides with known toxicity to humans, such as dicamba and 2,4-D as they develop herbicide-tolerant traits to combat superweeds.40 The use of herbicide-tolerant crops is a key factor in the destruction of pollinator habitat, which has contributed to the overall decline in pollinator species. Monarch population numbers have fallen by 90 percent in less than 20 years.41 Monarch decline is associated with the pervasive use of glyphosate and other herbicides that kill off milkweed plants, which monarchs need to survive and reproduce.42 Another threat to pollinators is the widespread use of neonicotinoids (neonics), a class of insecticides developed by Bayer. A growing body of scientific data implicates neonics in the decline of bee species.43,44,45 Dow, Dupont and Monsanto all manufacture and sell neonic-coated seeds, which have been demonstrated to impact bees and birds.46,47,48 The consolidation of the companies in question will likely lead to greater control of the seed market, further entrenching the use of neonic-coated seeds and limiting farmers’ choice to access uncoated alternatives.

    Conclusion

    Conglomerates of such massive scale, breadth and reach, such as those proposed by these mergers, pose a real risk to our economy, to our agricultural sector, to public health, to food security, to the environment and to the general health of the agricultural and food business climate. Dominance of this magnitude can pose both domestic and international consequences that would be irreversible, once set in motion.

    For all the above reasons, we encourage the Department of Justice to thoroughly investigate and enjoin the mergers. The Department must act quickly to protect American investments, American farmers, American workers and American consumers from the harmful effects resulting from increased consolidation in the agrochemical industry.

    Sincerely,

    1,000 New Gardens
    100grannies.org

    21 Acres
    Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project
    ActionAid USA

    Agricultural Justice Project
    Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.
    All-Creatures.org
    Alliance for Democracy
    Alliance for Global Justice
    Alliance for the Wild Rockies
    American Bird Conservancy
    Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc.
    Appalachian Sustainable Development
    Appetite For Change
    Arabber Preservation Society
    AXE, LLC
    Backyard Growers
    Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry, University of Maryland, Baltimore County Berks Gas Truth
    Beyond Pesticides
    Beyond Toxics
    Biodynamic Association
    Biofuelwatch
    Biosafety Alliance
    Bio-Way Farm, Ware shoals, SC
    Black Warrior Riverkeeper
    Bold Visions Conservation
    California Farmers Guild
    Californians for Alternatives to Toxics
    Californians for Pesticide Reform
    Camp Grier, Old Fort, NC
    Carolyn Haines Inc.
    CATA - El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas
    California Certified Organic Farmers
    Center for Environmental Health
    Center for Food Safety
    Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
    Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War
    Central Maryland Beekeepers Association
    Chicken Scratch Farms
    Chris Maykut, President, Friends of Bumping Lake
    Citizens for GMO Labeling
    City Roots, LLC
    Clean Air Watch
    Coalition of Immokalee Workers

    Coastal Monmouth Democratic Club Cobblestone Valley Farm
    Colorado College Real Food Challenge Committee for a Sustainable Waterfront Community Agroecology Network
    Community Alliance for Global Justice Connecticut Families Against Chemical Trespass Conservation Law Foundation

    Corporate Accountability International Cottonwood Environmental Law Center Cow Cow Ranch
    Crawford Stewardship Project

    Creation Plantation, Louisburg, NC Dakota Rural Action
    DC Environmental Network Dinner Bell Farm, Snow Camp, NC Dogwood Alliance

    Domestic Fair Trade Association Donna Smith, Farmer
    Dr. Bronner's
    Earthjustice

    Earth's Echo Farm Ecohermanas
    Eco-Justice Ministries Ecology Center Elder-Activists
    Endangered Habitats League Endangered Species Coalition Environment America Environment Arizona Environment California Environment Colorado Environment Connecticut Environment Florida Environment Georgia Environment Illinois Environment Iowa Environment Maine Environment Maryland Environment Massachusetts Environment Michigan Environment Minnesota Environment Missouri Environment Montana

    Environment Nevada
    Environment New Hampshire
    Environment New Jersey
    Environment New Mexico
    Environment New York
    Environment North Carolina
    Environment Ohio
    Environment Oregon
    Environment Rhode Island
    Environment Texas
    Environment Virginia
    Environment Washington
    Environmental Defenders of McHenry County
    Environmental Protection Information Center
    Environmental Task Force, University of Maryland, Baltimore County Experimental Farm Network
    Factory Farming Awareness Coalition
    Fairtrade America
    Fair World Project
    Family Farm Defenders
    Farmworker Association of Florida
    Farmworker Justice
    Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers Inc.
    Food Chain Workers Alliance
    Food Craft Institute
    Food Democracy Now!
    Food Fight
    Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
    Food Forward
    Food for Maine's Future
    Food and Water Watch
    Food Well Alliance
    Food, Equity, Entrepreneurship, & Development (FEED)
    Food Integrity Campaign
    Food Truth, Students of Clark University
    Fox Haven Organic Farm
    Friends of the Earth U.S.
    Friends of the Earth Australia
    Gap Mountain Goats
    Get Down Farm
    Georgia ForestWatch
    Glencora LLC, Grover, NC
    Global Brigades Environmental, University of Maryland, Baltimore County Global Justice Ecology Project

    GMO Free Arizona
    GMO Free USA
    GMO Inside
    Good Flavor Farm
    Goss Farms, Salisbury, NC Grassroots Global Justice Alliance Green America

    Greenbrier River Watershed Association Green Environmental Coalition
    Green Goose Farm
    GreenCatch

    Greenhorns
    Green Plate Catering
    Grow Dat Youth Farm
    Haiku Aina Permaculture Initiative
    Harriet Moulder, Member of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Haw River Mushrooms Farm, Saxapahaw, NC
    Hawk Dance Farm
    Hmong American Farmers Association
    IFOAM - Organics International
    Illinois Right to Know GMO
    Illinois Stewardship Alliance
    Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
    Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
    Iowa Farmers Union
    Iowa Organic Association
    Iron Horse Farm, Cedar Grove, NC
    Jayhawk Audubon Society
    Judith D. Schwartz, Author
    Just Food, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
    Kansas City Food Circle
    Kansas Rural Center
    L.A. Kitchen
    Living Oak Farm, Abbeville, SC
    Local Futures/International Society for Ecology and Culture
    MADGE Australia Inc
    Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association
    Mangrove Action Project
    Maryland Environmental Health Network
    Maryland Ornithological Society
    Maryland Pesticide Education Network
    Massachusetts Right to Know
    Mercola
    Mesa Winds Farm

    Michigan Farmers Union
    Midwest Pesticide Action Center
    Migrant Justice
    Missouri Farmers Union
    MOM's Organic Market
    Moms Across America
    Montana Organic Association
    Montgomery Countryside Alliance
    Multinational Exchange in Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) Namu Farm
    Nancy's Garden
    National Asian American Coalition
    National Diversity Coalition
    National Family Farm Coalition
    National Organic Coalition
    New England Farmers Union
    North Beach Films
    North Carolina A&T State University
    North County Watch
    Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
    Northeast Organic Farming Association-Connecticut
    Northeast Organic Farming Association - Interstate Council Northeast Organic Farming Association-Massachusetts Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont Northeastern University Real Food Challenge
    Northern California Community Loan Fund
    Northern NJ Chapter of National Organization for Women Northwest Arkansas Workers' Justice Center
    Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
    Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
    OASIS Center International
    Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
    Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
    Ohio Environmental Council
    Old McCaskill's Farm, Rembert, SC
    Olympia Beekeepers Association
    Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families
    Organic Consumers Association
    Organic Seed Alliance
    Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
    Organic Vision LLC
    Organization for Competitive Markets

    Origin Farms, Yemassee, SC
    Our Family Farms
    PastureMap Inc
    PCC Natural Markets
    PennEnvironment
    Perennial Roots Farm
    Personal Family Farm
    Pesticide Action Network North America Philly Permaculture

    Planting Justice
    Pollinate Minnesota
    Pollinator Friendly Alliance
    Pollinator Stewardship Council
    Public Citizen
    Rural Advancement Foundation International
    Raft Swamp Farms, Red Springs, NC
    Raptors Are The Solution
    Real Food Challenge at Northwestern University
    Real Food Challenge
    Real Food Challenge at San Francisco State University Real Food Challenge Towson University
    Real Food Hopkins
    Real Food University of Georgia
    Real Food Utah
    Reverence Farms, Graham, NC
    RootsAction.org
    Roots of Change
    Rural Advancement Foundation International
    Rural Coalition
    Rural Vermont
    Russian Riverkeeper
    Santa Cruz Permaculture
    Save Our Sky Blue Waters
    SAVE THE FROGS!
    Sea Cliff Farmers Market
    Seed the Commons
    Sequoia ForestKeeper
    Sierra Club
    Sierra Club Massachusetts
    Sierra Harvest
    Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital
    Slow Food California
    Slow Food North Shore
    Slow Food USA

    Small Planet Institute
    Soil Generation
    Soko Farm
    Solomon Springs Farm, Landrum, SC South Dakota Farmers Union

    South Florida Wildlands Association Sow True Seeds

    Stick and Stone Farm
    Students for Environmental Awareness, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
    Students for Sustainable Food of Western Washington University SumOfUs
    Sunrock Farm
    Sustainable Economies Law Center
    Sustainable Food Center

    Sustainable Living Systems
    Terra Genesis International
    Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association The Center for Biological Diversity
    The Center for Sustainable Medicine
    The Conscious Kitchen
    The Cornucopia Institute
    The Happy Berrry, Six Mile, SC
    The harvest collective
    The Lands Council
    Thistledown Farm, Graham, NC
    Top Leaf Farms
    Toxics Action Center
    Toxic Free North Carolina
    Turning Green
    Turtle Island Restoration Network
    Transnational Institute
    Triangle C Beef
    University of Maine Real Food Challenge University of Montana Real Food Challenge University of Utah Real Food Challenge
    University of Vermont Real Food Revolution Urban Permaculture Institute
    U.S. PIRG
    Utica Bridge Farms
    Vermont Conservation Voters
    Vermont Public Interest Research Group
    Virginia Association for Biological Farming
    War Is A Crime

     

    Washington County Beekeepers Association Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network Waterkeepers Chesapeake
    Wesleyan Local Co-op
    Western Colorado Congress
    White Swan Farm &Forge, Cedar Grove NC WhyHunger
    Wild Hill Farm
    Wisconsin Environment
    Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) Women's International League of Peace & Freedom US Woodleaf Farm
    Worker Justice Center of NY
    Writerspace LLC 

     


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