May 14, 2015

Monsanto/Syngenta: From Gene Giants to Agribehemoths

A proposed merger of seed and pesticide conglomerates portends a new level of monopoly over the first link in the global food chain
If allowed, a proposed merger between two global agribusiness giants could further consolidate the power of a handful of companies over the global food system through seeds, according to a report released by ETC Group today. The results of concentrating control over plant varieties in a few "Gene Giants," the authors say, could have dangerous consequences.
US-based Monsanto and Swiss seed giant Syngenta are currently in negotiations over an attempted merger. Already, six companies control 75% of global seed and pesticide sales and related R&D. In the report, entitled Seedy Characters, ETC Group argues that rather than being allowed to consolidate further, these monopolies should be broken up.
“This tiny group of companies is attempting to tighten its grip on the global food supply, and the new way of justifying that is pushing the need for ‘climate smart agriculture,’” said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group.
However, the report notes that the activities of the seed giants have actually weakened the resilience of existing crops. By focusing only on pesticide resistance in breeding and genetic manipulations, qualities like drought resistance have atrophied.
Seedy Characters details how the proposed merger could set off another round of mergers that fuses seed and pesticide companies with the fertilizer industry and farm machinery titans. 
“Seeds, chemicals, fertilizers, machinery, and even farm insurance are the first links in the industrial food chain,” said Joelle Deschambault of ETC Group’s Ottawa office. “All of the inputs used by the industrial food system could ultimately be controlled by three agribehemoths.”  
Ultimately, bigger may not be better when it comes to the masters of the global food system. Antitrust regulators will look at the proposed deal, but the companies will argue that concentration of power and resources is the best way to feed the world in a climate crisis.
“The agribehemoths claim that only the biggest can feed the world,” said Veronica Villa from ETC Group’s Mexico office. “They’ve been big for decades, and more than 800 million people are still hungry and many more are badly nourished.” 
“In fact, the bigger the companies get, the less they spend on research and the more they spent on public relations.”
“The companies talk about ‘climate smart’ agriculture, but it’s only an excuse to sidestep the regulators,” Mooney added. “These agri-conglomerates are like Park Place and Boardwalk; once they’re together, the farmers will be the ones forced to pay big bucks – for their monopoly.”
ETC Group has been monitoring agribusiness since 1977 when seed was controlled by farmers and, of the 7000 seed suppliers worldwide, no one could claim even 1% of the market. 
If Monsanto and Syngenta are allowed to merge, the new company will control 54% of seed sales and a third of global pesticides. Meanwhile, the farmers who have bred and nurtured seeds for 12,000 years are being forced to pay patent royalties and sign contracts that prohibit them from saving their own seeds.
Download the report: 
For more information:
Pat Mooney – – +1-613-241-2267 ext 23 / cell: 1 (613) 240-0045.
Joelle Deschambault – – +1-613-241-2267 ext 0
Verónica Villa – - +52-5555-632-664
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