Nearly 325 consumer, food, farm and anti-pesticide groups sent a letter Monday to newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling on Sessions to block the three major seed-and-agrichemical mergers being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as other U.S. and foreign regulators.
The mergers involved include Dow Chemical and DuPont, Bayer AG and Monsanto, and ChemChina and Syngenta.
Groups signing onto the letter stated the mergers would end up increasing both food and farming costs, threaten global food security, curtail innovation, threaten the health of farm workers and limit farmer choices.
“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.”
The companies in these mergers have argued their individual partnerships would increase innovation by boosting research and development, as well as expand the mix of traits-seed-and-chemical combinations for major crops. Further, the ChemChina-Syngenta deal would help advance biotechnology production and use in China.
Still, the broad coalition of groups joining the letter argued the mergers would translate into fewer options for farmers and raise input prices. "We’ve seen what happens when too few companies control too much of the market, and these mergers would only make a bad situation worse,” said Mike Weaver, president, Organization for Competitive Markets.
OCM added, "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."
Aaron Lehman, president of Iowa Farmers Union, added, "The decline in the quality of plant breeding for conventional varieties and the corresponding increase in the use of crop chemicals will continue, as the merged companies narrow their interests yet further to a few number of products likely to bring in the greatest profit for those biotech companies. The past two decades have shown us that herbicide-resistant GMO seeds have been the favorite for companies like Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta because they boost the sale of pesticides."
Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett, president of the National Family Farm Coalition and Federation of Southern Cooperatives representative, said, "A Bayer AG-Monsanto company would control 70% of the Southeast cottonseed market, which would increase the price by over 18%. Soy and corn prices would also rise, putting farmers’ livelihoods at risk even more."
A large number of groups signing onto the letter have been longtime opponents of biotechnology and pesticides.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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