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EU Approves Controversial Bayer-Monsanto Merger
The European Commission said the German chemical-maker's takeover of the St. Louis-based agribusiness giant is "conditional on an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties' overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture."
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement: "We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full. Our decision ensures that there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets also after this merger."
Consolidation of Bayer and Monsanto—not to mention the deals between DuPont and Dow Chemical Co, and ChemChina and Syngenta—will completely reshape the global seed and pesticide markets. Farmers and concerned citizens have raised worries that the merged corporations will control data about farm practices, increase prices and diminish quality, choice and seed varieties.
Bloomberg further reported:
"Wednesday's merger decision is arguably Vestager's most controversial one to date. Environmentalists, including Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, have bombarded her with tweets, emails, letters and postcards begging her to block a 'merger from hell' that might harm human health, farming and the environment. Vestager said many of these concerns went beyond competition policy and the Bayer/Monsanto merger."
Vestager noted in her statement, "In particular, we have made sure that the number of global players actively competing in these markets stays the same. That is important because we need competition to ensure farmers have a choice of different seed varieties and pesticides at affordable prices. And we need competition to push companies to innovate in digital agriculture and to continue to develop new products that meet the high regulatory standards in Europe, to the benefit of all Europeans and the environment."
According to Friends of the Earth Europe, Bayer-Monsanto merger was opposed by more than a million people and opinion polls indicated that 54 percent of EU citizens thought it was "very" or "fairly important" that the European Commission blocked it.
"This merger will create the world's biggest and most powerful agribusiness corporation, which will try to force its genetically modified seeds and toxic pesticides into our food and countryside," Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said in a statement.
"The Commission decision also allows them, together with BASF, to become data giants in agriculture—the 'Facebooks of farming'—with all the pitfalls that entails. The coming together of these two is a marriage made in hell—bad for farmers, bad for consumers and bad for our countryside."
Bayer intends to complete the deal by the end of the second quarter but still needs approval in other major markets, including the U.S. and Russia.
U.S. Department of Justice officials are reportedly worried that the merger could hurt competition.
However, Bayer Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann said in a statement that "receipt of the European Commission's approval is a major success and a significant milestone."
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.