In September, the German health and chemical conglomerate Bayer announced that it plans to buy Monsanto. The proposed $66 billion deal would create the world’s largest seed and pesticide company.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) view mergers from the perspective of whether they will substantially reduce competition. Even with that narrow focus, there’s a lot to be concerned about. And for consumers, there are plenty more reasons for worry:
It Could mean More money to influence public policy
Monsanto and Bayer are used to throwing their weight, and money, around in American politics. Together, the two companies have spent close to $120 million on lobbying in the past decade. Monsanto ranks as the single-biggest lobbying spender in the U.S. agricultural service and product industry. Meanwhile, Bayer is one of the top lobbying spenders within the pharmaceutical industry, and has even outspent Monsanto overall in recent years.
If this merger goes through, the combined company would be a colossal player in federal and state politics.
It Could mean less innovation
A marketplace with fewer competitors would likely mean a merged Bayer-Monsanto is less inclined to pursue innovative solutions to global agricultural challenges. We need leading agricultural companies to think about ways to reduce the use of chemicals in farming, improve crop yields, and respond to climate change.
But as Phil Howard of Michigan State University noted, “As these industries have consolidated, they’ve spent less on research, and what research they do has been steered toward big blockbuster profits with commodity crops such as corn or soy.”
it Could mean More Attacks on our right to know
Monsanto is the world's largest supplier of genetically-modified seeds. Not surprisingly, they oppose GMO labeling, as does Bayer. They were both big supporters of the misleadingly-named Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which pre-empted existing state-level GMO labeling laws and blocks a state's ability to enact new ones.
This legislation – also known as the DARK (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act – was signed into law this summer, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has two years to write the rules around GMO labeling. The bill would require companies to label GMOs on their products – something more than 90% of Americans want – but gives them a range of options to do so, including QR codes that require a smartphone to read.
We know where Bayer and Monsanto stand on our right to know, and we’ve seen how they can sway legislation. Naturally, the end result of this merger could mean even stronger attempts to further water down a law that could already keep too many Americans in the dark.
Because this deal would create an agribusiness superpower, regulators will surely scrutinize it. For these reasons, we urge them to reject it.