For millions of consumers opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the companion herbicides manufactured by agrochemical giant Monsanto, nothing could be better than hearing that the company is disappearing. But the news is bittersweet: Monsanto agreed to a $66 billion buyout by Germany-based Bayer in both the largest foreign corporate takeover and largest cash bid on record. But while Monsanto’s name may disappear from products like its glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, its controversial seed and chemical business is only going to get stronger with Bayer's support.
The news came yesterday that Bayer’s $128 per share offer was finally accepted by Monsanto after months of negotiations.
“The merger is being presented as a way to scale Bayer’s operations in seeds, crop protection and other agricultural specializations as demand for vegetables and grains surges in the coming decades,” reports Forbes.
Bayer is the well-known brand behind numerous household products including Bayer aspirin, as well as other brands like Alka-Seltzer, Claritin, and Xarelto. But it’s also a global leader in agrochemical herbicides and pesticides with its Bayer CropScience brand.
“The cross-border corporate merger comes as Bayer and Monsanto expect the world population to grow by 3 billion people by 2050,” reports Forbes, “creating an increased need for improved crop yields and sustainability.”
The merger solidifies Bayer’s presence in the U.S.; it will take over Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters as well as North Carolina, and maintaining offices in Germany.
“Together Monsanto and Bayer will build on our proud tradition and respective track records of innovation in the agriculture industry, delivering a more comprehensive and broader set of solutions to growers,” Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, said in a statement.
The companies claim that the combined efforts of Monsanto and Bayer will give its farming customers “new solutions, including agronomic insight.”
Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a consumer advocacy group, told EcoWatch that "Agricultural biotechnology has never been about 'feeding the world,'” much like the companies suggest, but rather “enriching the bottom line of toxic chemical corporations that have had a long history of producing chemicals that are deadly to human populations and the environment."
"The merger of Bayer and Monsanto should make the connection between Big Pharma, Big Biotech and Big Food all the more apparent to consumers," Ronnie Cummins, the international director of the Organic Consumers Association, told EcoWatch. "This may be a move to take pressure off the manufacturer of glyphosate, the most profitable pesticide in the world. But it really doesn't matter who manufactures or sells glyphosate, or any other dangerous chemical. The damage to human health and the environment remains the same, as does our commitment to getting these chemicals out of our food system."
The merger gives Bayer and Monsanto more control over the growing number of controversial industrial agriculture systems reliant on genetically modified crops, mainly corn, soy, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, and cotton. Heavy reliance on genetically modified crops and herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup, have led to herbicide resistant “superweeds” and pesticide-resistant rootworms, among others. Glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide has been linked to numerous human health problems. And its inability to effectively kill weeds in the long-term has led to the use of stronger herbicides like 2,4-D, a component in Agent Orange, the Monsanto-produced Vietnam War defoliant.
With limited rules on label disclosure of genetically modified ingredients, particularly in the U.S., consumers are often left in the dark about whether or not their foods contain GMOs and the accompanying herbicides. Efforts to thwart state-level GMO-labeling bills were funded by both Monsanto and Bayer. Monsanto’s business practices and controversial products have made it the poster company for the anti-GMO movement not just in the U.S., but around the world, propelling #OccupyMonsanto and the March Against Monsanto into global events.
"Now the most evil company in Europe has absorbed the most evil company in America,” said Murphy. “Monsanto and Bayer's new corporate motto should be 'Killing bees and butterflies for fun and profit.'"
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Tractor spraying field image via Shutterstock