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'Merger From Hell' Reportedly Approved by DOJ, Pushing Agrichemical Chokehold on Food System

Food
Bayer Crop Science Innovation Center. NCSUPlantPathology / Flickr

By Andrea Germanos

Watchdog groups sounded alarms on Monday after the Wall Street Journal reported that the proposed mega-merger of Bayer and Monsanto has cleared its final regulatory hurdle in the U.S.

The reported approval from the Justice Department came "after the companies pledged to sell off additional assets," the Journal reported, and despite concerns raised by hundreds of food and farm groups. It also comes weeks after the European Commission gave its thumbs up.


"The approval of the third supersized seed merger, after ChemChina-Syngenta and Dow-DuPont," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, "leaves farmers vulnerable to price gouging for seeds and other supplies and strengthens the hold a few dominant corporations have over the entire food system."

"The Justice Department's rubber stamping of these three seed mega-mergers transforms the already concentrated agrichemical and seed market, effectively reducing the number of competitors from six to three," she added.

Because it will make it harder for farmers to acquire non-genetically modified seeds to plant, it "makes it harder for agriculture to get off the GMO-chemical treadmill that just keeps increasing in speed," she said.

With its reported stamp of approval, the pending merger shows that "the federal government is not taking the impact of corporate control of our food supply seriously. It's time for Congress to establish a moratorium on mega-mergers in the food system," Hauter argued.

Jason Davidson, food and technology campaign associate with Friends of the Earth, was equally critical in his reaction to the development.

"The Department of Justice has decided that corporate profits matter more than the interests of consumers and farmers. This decision will massively increase the power of major agrichemical companies that already have a stranglehold on our food system," he declared in a statement.

He went on to lament that "American farmers will see increased seed prices, fewer options, and decreased bargaining power." Echoing Hauter's warning, he argued. "This merger from hell will further entrench the failing model of toxic, chemical intensive agriculture, which is poisoning people and the planet."

A recent poll found that nearly 94 percent of farmers expressed concern that a Bayer-Monsanto merger would have a negative impact on independent farmers and their communities. It also found that 89 percent of farmers said they believe the merger would lead to increased pressure for chemically-dependent farming.

Shares of Monsanto, meanwhile, jumped 6.6 percent following the Journal's reporting on the $66 billion takeover by Bayer.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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Protesters gathered outside US Bank and Wells Fargo locations around the U.S. to protest investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Dec. 1, 2016. This photo is from a protest outside US Bank in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

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."


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."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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