Harvest of Greed – the Merger of Bayer and Monsanto
The featured documentary, “Harvest of Greed,” investigates a number of the many issues brought about by the merger of Monsanto and Bayer AG. The merger was initially announced in May 2016, when Monsanto accepted Bayer’s $66 billion takeover offer — the largest all-cash buyout on record.2,4 following the European Union’s (EU) approval in March. As a condition of the DOJ’s approval, Bayer will sell some of its assets to BASF — its German competitor — before the finalization of the merger.
This includes its soybean, cottonseed and glufosinate weed killer businesses, which overlap with Monsanto’s and were antitrust sticking points. Combined, Bayer and Monsanto used to control nearly 60 percent of the American cottonseed market. Monsanto also owns the rights to 80 percent of corn and 90 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S.6
Mega-Entity Now Controls Large Portion of Global Seed Supply
This new entity is now the largest seed and pesticide company in the world, controlling more than 25 percent of the global seed and pesticide supply. In all, just three companies now dominate the global seed and pesticide market.8 He also urged the DOJ to “reopen its investigation of Monsanto’s monopoly over the seed and chemical market.” Farmers have also expressed concern over what the merger might do to prices, as less competition inevitably tends to lead to price hikes.
As just one example, the price of a bag of seed corn has risen from $80 to $300 over the past decade alone — a price hike attributed to the consolidation of seed companies and reduced competition. The merger of Bayer and Monsanto is predicted to make matters worse. Farmers also worry that consolidation will result in lower quality products by reducing incentive for innovation. Organic farmers have their concerns as well. As noted by Food and Power:9
“For Kristina Hubbard, director of advocacy and communications for the Organic Seed Alliance, the merger presents a particular threat to organic farmers. She notes that the National Organic Program’s regulations on organic seeds generally dictate that growers must use organic seeds to grow their crops. But there is an exception granted for non-organic seed when ‘an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available.’
Acceptable non-organic seeds are generally owned by the giant seed companies. ‘That exemption is important because currently the supply [of organic seeds] isn’t sufficient to meet the diverse and regional needs of all organic farmers,’ she says. With continued consolidation in the seed industry, she says farmers that rely on those non-organic seed options may find themselves faced with even fewer options as the merged companies cut down on research and development.”
Bayer-Monsanto Merger Unlikely to Benefit Anyone but Its Shareholders
Bayer AG’s CEO, Werner Baumann, has stated that “it is not our plan or our ambition or our intent to prevent farmers from having choice.”11
Indeed, there can be little doubt that the Bayer-Monsanto merger will give the subsequent entity even more power to bully farmers into paying more and pressuring and manipulating governments into accepting the unacceptable risks posed by genetically engineered (GE) crops and mounting use of ever more toxic pesticides.
One example of Monsanto’s strong-arm tactics included in the film is that of India, where more than 300,000 farmers have committed suicide due to farm-related debt. When the government attempted to regulate the price of seed — the main cause leading to these debts — Monsanto sued the Indian government.
“Two of the world’s most foul corporate criminals will be one. Monsanto will pack up its headquarters and head overseas. The much-maligned Monsanto name will be retired. But a corporate criminal by any other name — or size — is still a corporate criminal.
This merger only heightens the urgency, and strengthens our resolve, to hunt down the corporations that are poisoning everything in sight. We will follow them to the ends of the earth, if need be. We will expose their crimes. We will end the toxic tyranny. We will become the Billions Against Bayer. And we will need your help …”
Even many Bayer employees are leery of the merger. While both companies have checkered pasts, Bayer has managed to escape the brunt of the kind of criticism, if not hatred, leveled at Monsanto over the years.
According to the featured documentary, Bayer claims the merger has widespread support among its staff, yet when Bayer employees were approached under the promise of anonymity, the general consensus was one of dismay at inheriting Monsanto’s tarnished reputation. Such fears are likely to come true sooner rather than later. Activists in Argentina, for example, promise Monsanto’s ill reputation cannot be washed clean but will now transfer over to Bayer.
Glyphosate — A Toxic Legacy
Both Bayer and Monsanto insist that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup and other herbicide formulations, is “a very safe product when used properly.” In the video, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann stresses that more than 3,000 studies support the chemical’s safety. Yet numerous studies have reached the converse conclusion, showing it poses toxic risks to soil, animals and humans.
“The things you hear in the public debate are ultimately based on misinformation about the risks of this product,” Baumann says. “So, we think glyphosate, even if it does belong to our company, is a good product, and its license should be renewed.”
At the end of 2017, the EU did indeed renew its approval of glyphosate for the next five years,16 but may also affect your body’s ability to produce fully functioning proteins, inhibit the shikimate pathway (found in gut bacteria) and interfere with the function of cytochrome P450 enzymes (required for activation of vitamin D and the creation of nitric oxide and cholesterol sulfate).
Glyphosate also chelates important minerals, disrupts sulfate synthesis and transport, interferes with the synthesis of aromatic amino acids and methionine, resulting in folate and neurotransmitter shortages, disrupts your microbiome by acting as an antibiotic, impairs methylation pathways, and inhibits pituitary release of thyroid stimulating hormone, which can lead to hypothyroidism.
Recent Government Tests Show Roundup Is More Toxic Than Glyphosate in Isolation
Most recently, toxicology testing18 The NTP testing was done by request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassification of glyphosate as a Class 2A probable carcinogen three years ago.19
At the time, the IARC noted concerns about glyphosate formulations possibly having increased toxicity due to synergistic interactions. As it turns out, that’s exactly what the NTP testing found. According to the NTP’s summary of the results, glyphosate formulations “significantly altered” the viability of human cells by disrupting the functionality of cell membranes.
Mike DeVito, acting chief of the NTP Laboratory commented on the results saying, “We see the formulations are much more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells. The glyphosate really didn’t do it.”
Internal documents from Monsanto, obtained through previous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, reveal Monsanto’s own employees have not been convinced the product is harmless either. For example, in a 2002 email, Monsanto executive William Heydens said, “Glyphosate is OK but the formulated product … does the damage.”21 included Vandana Shiva, Corinne Lepage (former environment minister of France), Giles-Eric Séralini (toxicologist researching toxicities of GMOs and glyphosate), and Olivier De Schutter (former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food), among others. The legal opinion on the evidence presented at the tribunal was delivered April 18, 2017. As reported by Corporate Europe Observatory:23 originally published by Waking Times in 2014.25 This ‘act’ gives the corporate factory farms a virtual monopoly to police and control all foods grown anywhere, including one’s own backyard, and provides harsh penalties and jail sentences for those who do not use chemicals and fertilizers. President Obama … gave his approval.
With this Act, Monsanto claims that only GM [genetically modified] foods are safe and organic or homegrown foods potentially spread disease, therefore must be regulated out of existence for the safety of the world … As further revelations have broken open regarding this evil giant’s true intentions, Monsanto crafted the ridiculous HR 933 Continuing Resolution,27 During World War II, Bayer (then I.G. Farben) produced Zyklon B gas, used in the Nazi gas chambers to eradicate 11 million people whose only crime was to be born a Jew.
According to Alliance for Human Research Protection, the company was also “intimately involved with the human experimental atrocities committed by Mengele at Auschwitz.”29 If you think the passing of time might have made this corporate entity kinder, safer and gentler, think again.
In 2003, it was revealed Bayer sold blood-clotting medicine tainted with the HIV virus to Asian, Latin American and Europe in the mid-1980s.31 In 2006, documents proved Bayer hid evidence showing unfavorable results from the drug in order to continue selling it. Lawsuits have also been filed against Bayer for the untimely death of 190 young women taking their birth control pill Yaz, which raises your risk of blood clots by 300 percent.
Bayer Unlikely to Shift Public Perception of GMOs and Toxic Agriculture
Between 2006 and 2007, Bayer was also responsible for contaminating U.S. rice imports with three unapproved varieties of GE rice under development by Bayer CropScience. Bayer also makes neonicotinoid pesticides, suspected of being responsible for mass die-offs of bees around the world, thereby threatening the global food supply, and made the plastic chemical bisphenol-A, now known to have a dangerous impact on the human endocrine system.
In short, Bayer’s history is just as dark and unethical as Monsanto’s, if not more, and some have rightfully referred to the merger of these two destructive behemoths as a “marriage made in hell.”32 While change is possible, it seems improbable that this new Bayer-Monsanto mega-entity will radically change, and based on their combined histories, the world better get ready for a monumental fight.
Sources and References
- 1The Guardian September 14, 2016
- 2Mother Jones September 14, 2016
- 3Bloomberg September 14, 2016
- 4Fortune April 10, 2018
- 5,9Food and Power August 10, 2017
- 6USA Today March 21, 2018
- 7Mother Jones January 31, 2018
- 8The Guardian September 14, 2016
- 10USA Today September 15, 2016
- 11Business Insider February 5, 2017
- 12Food Democracy Now September 6, 2014
- 13Facebook, Billions Against Bayer Campaign
- 14Organic Consumers Association September 13, 2016
- 15Reuters December 12, 2017
- 16The Lancet Oncology March 20, 2015
- 17National Toxicology Program, Glyphosate and Glyphosate Formulations
- 18The Guardian May 8, 2018
- 19The Lancet Oncology March 20, 2015; 16(5): 490-491
- 20Monsanto Papers, Hayden email April 25, 2002
- 21Institute of Science in Society December 7, 2015
- 22Corporate Europe Observatory April 18, 2017
- 23Global Research, The Complete History of Monsanto
- 24Sourcewatch.org Monsanto
- 25The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009: HR 875
- 26Infowars.com, March 28, 2013, HR 933 Continuing Resolution
- 28AHRP.org January 27, 2005
- 29Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, by Antony C. Sutton. May 11, 2010. Clairview Books.
- 30The New York Times May 22, 2003
- 31CBS News February 14, 2008
- 32The Guardian September 14, 2016