NRDC to DOJ: Bayer’s Takeover of Monsanto Is Lose-Lose for Farmers, Consumers, Bees, and the Environment
CHICAGO – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a letter with the U.S. Department of Justice objecting to the proposed takeover of the Monsanto Company by the German pesticide and pharmaceutical maker Bayer AG, which would result in the creation of the world’s largest seed and chemical corporation.
“Consolidating Monsanto and Bayer would escalate the use of dangerous toxic pesticides and create a bad deal for farmers, bees, consumers, and the planet. The Department of Justice should reject this proposal,” said Rebecca Riley, Senior Attorney with NRDC.
The proposed merger would create a mega-corporation that would control 29 percent of the market for seeds and 28 percent for pesticides. The existence of such a powerful player would substantially harm both farmers and the environment by decreasing competition and innovation, resulting in increased costs, and allowing for greater corporate control over farmers’ planting choice. It’s lose-lose for farmers and consumers. Of particular concern to NRDC is that the merger would reinforce the chemical-intensive growing practices currently threatening bees and wild pollinators that support between $200-600 billion worth of crops in the global food supply.
NRDC outlined its opposition to the Bayer takeover of Monsanto in a letter to the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Among NRDC’s specific concerns are that the consolidation will:
- Eliminate competition and innovation: Cottonseed is a good example of the threat. Bayer controls 38.5 percent of the cottonseed market; Monsanto controls about 31 percent. Together the chemical giant would control nearly 70 percent of the total market, an unacceptably high level of dominance by antitrust standards.
- Increase costs and limit planting options for farmers: Past consolidation in the agricultural chemical marketplace has increased costs for farmers. For example, there was a 4-fold increase in the price of corn seed over the last 20 years without corresponding benefit in yields. The price of corn per bushel is now about the same it was 20 years ago.
- Accelerate chemical-intensive agricultural techniques that threaten the existence of pollinators and imperil the global food supply: Pollinators are under severe threat as 90 percent of the monarch population has been lost in the last two decades, and nearly half of managed honey bee colonies die every year. Wild bees are also devastated by pesticide practices; the Rusty Patched bumble bee is now up for listing as an endangered species.
The letter notes that Bayer’s proposed takeover of Monsanto is just one of three proposals roiling the agricultural sector. Within the last year, the Dow Chemical Company and DuPont announced plans for a merger, and ChemChina, a Chinese state-owned chemical company, made a bid for the Swiss seeds and pesticides maker Syngenta. In the years 1985-2000, bigger firms acquired approximately 75 percent of small to medium firms doing agricultural biotechnology research; now the Big Six -- Bayer, Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, and BASF – have set their sights on each other.
“Mergers are a big win in a corporate boardroom, but out on the farm, consolidation just means higher costs,” said Riley. “Farmers will likely have to pay more for seeds and chemicals, and those costs already have been rising faster than the prices farmers receive for their crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Riley.
NRDC lawyers note that in addition to cost increases for farmers, which will ultimately be passed along to consumers, regulatory filings indicate that the newly-merged company would aim to become a “one stop shop” for everything from selling seeds and pesticides to providing planting and growing advice. With fewer suppliers, and those suppliers providing growing data to clients, farmers would likely be pressured to adopt pesticide-heavy agricultural practices, whether or not they provide measurable benefit.
The impact of this merger on neonicotinoid pesticides or “neonics” – the most widely-used class of insecticides in the world and one of the most toxic to bees is of particular concern to experts at NRDC. The letter highlights the fact that neonic treatment adds to the price of seeds and harms bees necessary for pollination, treatment for major U.S. crops is pervasive; for example, nearly 100 percent of corn seed is treated. Yet, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that for soybeans, “neonicotinoid seed treatments likely provide $0 in benefits to growers,” and there is concern the same could be true for corn.
- NRDC’s letter to the DOJ can be found at
- NRDC expert Dan Raichel blogged on the issue at
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us atwww.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.