Last year chemical and seed giants Monsanto and Bayer announced a $66 billion merger. A decision is expected in 2017 and is happening in the context of two other seed industry mega-mergers: Dow Chemical and Dupont and ChemChina and Syngenta.
ChemChina and Syngenta won US antitrust approval this past April, and just yesterday Dow and DuPont announced their own success in passing this hurdle. Both deals hinge on divestiture demands made by the US Department of Justice and, in the case of Dow and DuPont, three state attorneys general.
News of these mergers is devastating to family farmers who already operate under the pressures of severe market concentration at nearly every stage of the food and fiber production chain, beginning with seed. “[The] Dow Dupont merger would drain money and power from family farmers and rural communities,” tweeted the National Farmers Union yesterday in response to the latest announcement.
These mergers will result in three companies controlling more than 60% of the commercial seed supply (see graphic below). This level of market consolidation, which can only be called an oligopoly, leads to less choice and higher prices for farmers, and makes our food system more vulnerable. And, as we’ve written, these companies aggressively protect their intellectual property rights on seed, leading to less innovation and more restrictions on how seed is used and exchanged, including for research purposes and seed saving. Also troubling is that these merger examinations and approvals are happening at a DOJ where many staff vacancies remain, including the Chief Counsel of Competition Policy.
That’s why OSA joined other concerned organizations in cosponsoring a Congressional briefing this week focused on the last merger still awaiting approval. A number of farmers, antitrust experts, and agricultural organizations descended upon Washington, DC, to call for resistance to the Monsanto and Bayer merger and to outline the consequences from field to plate. More than 100 congressional staff and some members themselves attended. You can watch a recording here.
This briefing was convened because members of Congress have a role to play in calling for a halt to these mergers. As elected officials, they can call for deeper examinations of these industries and markets given what’s at stake and given the complexities of seed — but they need to hear from you. They need to hear that seed is not just an input, but a living, natural resource that demands careful management if we are to effectively respond as a society to our rapidly changing agricultural challenges and opportunities. Call your members of Congress (find them here) and ask that they do everything in their power to stop these anticompetitive mergers.