Monsanto about to Be Given a Taste of its Own Medicine?

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An oligopoly takes shape to corner the human food supply.

By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.

The hunter, it seems, has become the hunted. After wresting control of roughly a quarter of the global seeds market by acquiring a massive portfolio of seed companies, including Agroceres, Asgrow, Cristiani Burkard, Dekalb, Delta & Pine and the seeds division of Cargill North America, Monsanto now suddenly finds itself on the menu of two very powerful, much bigger rivals.

On Thursday, it was reported that Germany’s two chemical-industry titans Bayer and BASF, both of which have a market capitalization more than double Monsanto’s, are mulling a takeover bid.

Reaping a Whirlwind

In many ways, Monsanto has only itself to blame. When it launched a hostile bid for Swiss-based pesticides behemoth Syngenta last year, it sparked a massive consolidation race in the agrochemical industry. In the end it was the Chinese state-owned giant ChemChina that walked away with the spoils, at a dizzying price of €43 billion.

It was the largest corporate takeover of Chinese history and it sent a clear signal of China’s intention to become a global player in the GMO market. In a speech in late 2014, the President of China Xi Jinping said that China “cannot let foreign companies dominate the GMO market.”

For Monsanto, meanwhile, things are looking shaky. For the first time ever, it finds itself on the receiving end of another company’s untoward attentions. With just days to go before this year’s edition of the global March Against Monsanto Day (Sat. May 21), it also faces the bleak prospect not only of multi-million-dollar class-action lawsuits for selling, over the course of decades, a weedkiller that it allegedly knew was harmful to human health but also a wave of anti-GMO leglislation across key markets, including India, Mexico, the EU and even in the U.S.

In the past year U.S. regulators delayed approval of a key new weed killer, dicamba, amidst ongoing fears that European regulators would refuse to license products containing the chemical.

This was the last thing the company needed following the decision by scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) to label glyphosate, the herbicide key to Monsanto’s flagship Roundup weedkiller, as a probable carcinogen. The result has been a rare crisis of confidence for the once indomitable GMO giant, whose shares are now down 19% from a year ago, despite the buyout bid.

A Worrying Trend

The reports of Bayer and BASF’s interest in Monsanto are indicative of a deeply worrying trend: the increasing concentration of power and control over the global food chain. In January this year the USA’s two biggest chemical companies, DuPont and Dow Chemicals, announced their intention to tie the knot in a monster-merger estimated to be worth $130 billion. The marriage won’t be fully consummated until the U.S. regulators complete their review of the proposed merger, which is expected to occur towards the end of June. At that point, the global certified seeds industry will become one of the most concentrated markets on planet Earth.

Never before in the history of human agriculture and food have we faced such serious concentration of power and ownership of the global seed industry, the primary link of the global food chain, warns Silvia Ribeiro, a researcher for Mexico’s Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group). In 2016, just six American and European companies – Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer and Basf – control 100% of the GM seeds planted in the world.

Those six could soon be four.

Such concentration of the seed industry is a wholly new phenomenon. Thirty-five years ago, there were thousands of seed manufacturers and not a single one of them had more than 1% control of the global market. Fifteen years later, the top ten companies had captured 30% of the market, yet Monsanto was not among them. Now it controls 26% of the entire global market of all seeds, not just GMOs, according to research by ETC Group. Between them Monsanto, second-placed Dupont, and third-placed Syngenta control 53% of the market.

By contrast Bayer’s market share is a meager 3.3%. Its main area of expertise is developing pesticides, but if it pulled off the merger, the deal would create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and farm chemicals. It remains a big “IF,” however. Bayer would need to take on a huge amount of debt in order to acquire Monsanto; and US anti-trust regulators have woken up recently.

There’s the reputational risk — for Bayer. Monsanto remains the world’s most despised company and as such could be more of a curse than a blessing. And Monsanto is weighed down by debt that it raised to fund its $10 billion share buyback program to prop up its shares.

The Glyphosate Merry-Go-Round

Question marks also continue to hang over glyphosate, the key ingredient not only of Monsanto’s Roundup brand but also many of the products sold by other agrochemical companies, including BASF, Syngenta, Dow Chemical, DuPont and China’s Zhejiang Wynca Chemical.

In Europe, the debate on whether to renew the license for glyphosate continues to rage. Although public opposition to the use of the chemical is blossoming, the final decision on whether to renew the license is more likely to be shaped by the interests of Europe’s powerful biotech lobby, which as a recent report by Corporate Europe Observatory shows, has infiltrated just about every relevant regulatory and policy body in Brussels.

One of the most influential organizations is a German-based lobby consultancy called Genius, which helps run the website of the Glyphosate Task Force (GTF), an industry platform uniting producers of glyphosate-based herbicides including Monsanto, while also providing helpful advice to EU and German public authorities on topics that are of key interest to biotech corporations.

The fact that Germany’s 12th and 14th biggest corporations now have a potentially vital stake in the outcome of the glyphosate debate is likely to stack the odds even further in the biotech lobby’s favor. It’s often forgotten that Germany, famed for its anti-nuclear activism and passionate environmentalism, is also, as Le Monde puts it, “a paradise for pesticides manufacturers.”

So a new panel of pesticide experts from the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization just announced that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.”

And just like that, the official scientific consensus is muddied enough to leave most global consumers wondering what is up and what is down, while those who control the seeds of the food we eat are fusing into an ever tighter and more powerful oligopoly. By Don Quijones, Raging Bull-Shit

The once super-secret Holy-Grail trade deal between the US and the EU that is now broadly despised on both sides of the Atlantic, may not be alive yet, but it’s “probably doomed.” Read… R.I.P. TTIP?

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  31 comments for “Monsanto about to Be Given a Taste of its Own Medicine?

  1. BoyfromTottenham
    May 17, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Hi from Oz. A side issue that is highly relevant to home owners in Australia and other places is the effectiveness (or lack of) of currently ‘permitted’ termite treatments, compared to the previous long-lived chemicals that have since been banned. I believe that the potential economic cost to householders of the slow and silent destruction of the timber framing of their houses, when added to the visible recurrent cost of current ineffective treatments, is a financial time-bomb in many cities. Attempts to overcome the lack of effective treatments, such as metal meshes and cheap ‘treated’ softwood framing are likely to be futile, because of shoddy installation practices. I have seen million dollar houses erected here recently without a visible stick of hardwood or ‘treated’ softwood in them. Oh, well, at least the land under them will probably retain its value!

    • Chicken
      May 17, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      This way, a single treatment using an effective pesticide is substituted with bi-annual permethrin treatments.

  2. Agnes
    May 17, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    http://www.brightagrotech recommends Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. I myself have grown their Granny Cantrell Tomatoes ,saved the seed and regrown them. Heir loom seeds are those that grow true to their parents in the next generation and ought to have been on the list I posted to Petunia in the article about the rigged casino of the gold and silver futures market. Bright agrotech is the company that had the plant walls at the Paris Exhibition. Disclosure: I don’t work for either of these companies :P

  3. Chicken
    May 17, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    “In the past year U.S. regulators delayed approval of a key new weed killer, dicamba, amidst fears that European growers would refuse to buy it.”

    Very good article but…

    Seems rather odd that regulators are deciding which products growers will buy, usually a job for the marketing department?

    I guess if it’s safe, Monsanto should be allowed to bring it to market, maybe it’s not safe?

    Lucky for us glyphosate is only a carcenogenic as opposed to a mutanogenic, given it’s sprayed directly on the crop itself to preserve yield quality, not just for controlling weeds.

    I don’t think US regulators really care about creating quality, more so quantity (and destructive wildlife habitat disaster).

    I predict the merger or takeover will likely be blocked, and GMO will continue on.

  4. May 18, 2016 at 1:50 am

    You are delusional if you think the world will be fed with organic or “heirloom” tomatoes or whatever. The world crop of Cavendish Bananas are being wiped out by disease in Asia. The Cavendish was planted because the type before it was almost completely wiped out world wide. The disease has not reached the Western Hemisphere yet but no one has any doubts that it will. The choices now are to do nothing, rapidly develop a hybrid or GMO.

    That also can be said of oranges in Florida. The disease that is being fought tooth and nail. I guess there is hope. The citrus greening disease hasn’t reached California, but who thinks it won’t? There are signs of hope, but if nothing stops the disease, genetic modification will have to be used.

    I think the hatred of GMO is misplaced. If you are against it, you will be forever compared to those that successfully stopped DDT from being used. That “success” was followed by millions of deaths from malaria world wide.

    BLOOD will be on you hands!

    • Mark
      May 18, 2016 at 2:54 am

      wow-talk about a drama queen!

    • Debtserf
      May 18, 2016 at 3:59 am

      And the reason for all these diseases? Don’t they tell us something about the military-industrial food complex?

      Nature is a diverse system. When humans create unnatural monocrop growing conditions, which require ever more chemicals to sustain, disease is inevitable.

      You conclude that gmo is the answer, but the problem is one of our own devising, and gm only takes us further down the path of unsustainability.

      GM and chemical warfare is the problem. There is a better way; it’s called permaculture.

      • No Terror Anymore
        May 18, 2016 at 3:25 pm

        The diseases are the result of monoculture ag. There’ll be more & more problems with this. As for eating GMO, I don’t. Gave up corn, soy, all wheat except local organic, don’t buy bananas, don’t buy papayas, don’t eat zucchini, don’t buy farm-raised salmon.
        GMO solves nothing, except the “problem” of people desiring to grow their own food or eat what nature designed in each item.

    • Montofierro
      May 18, 2016 at 7:03 am

      Take a look at your own hands for that matter. The GMO /weed killers/pesticides biz is one of death, money making and control for the 0.01% and nothing else. The very nature of techno industrial monoculture ag provides a ready served -all you can eat buffet- for the ever increasing pesticide resistant superbugs and superweeds. Who coulda know? natural selection and evolution? wow. This race is not for the technofantasy peddlers like you and Monsanto to be won. Nature bats last baby. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Permaculture/Agroecology is the answer. Greed is what’s all about and it ill kill the planet.

    • Lindsay Berge
      May 18, 2016 at 7:06 am

      Not true about DDT and malaria. From Wikipedia DDT (note the dates, eradication was largely abandoned in 1969 due to DDT resistance in mosquitoes and other implementation issue well before the US ban on agricultural use.).

      In 1945, DDT was made available to farmers as an agricultural insecticide[9] and played a role in the final elimination of malaria in Europe and North America.[12][31][32]
      In 1955, the World Health Organization commenced a program to eradicate malaria in countries with low to moderate transmission rates worldwide, relying largely on DDT for mosquito control and rapid diagnosis and treatment to reduce transmission.[33] The program eliminated the disease in “Taiwan, much of the Caribbean, the Balkans, parts of northern Africa, the northern region of Australia, and a large swath of the South Pacific”[34] and dramatically reduced mortality in Sri Lanka and India.[35]
      However, failure to sustain the program, increasing mosquito tolerance to DDT, and increasing parasite tolerance led to a resurgence. In many areas early successes partially or completely reversed, and in some cases rates of transmission increased.[36] The program succeeded in eliminating malaria only in areas with “high socio-economic status, well-organized healthcare systems, and relatively less intensive or seasonal malaria transmission”.[37]
      DDT was less effective in tropical regions due to the continuous life cycle of mosquitoes and poor infrastructure. It was not applied at all in sub-Saharan Africa due to these perceived difficulties. Mortality rates in that area never declined to the same dramatic extent, and now constitute the bulk of malarial deaths worldwide, especially following the disease’s resurgence as a result of resistance to drug treatments and the spread of the deadly malarial variant caused by Plasmodium falciparum.[citation needed]
      Eradication was abandoned in 1969 and attention instead focused on controlling and treating the disease. Spraying programs (especially using DDT) were curtailed due to concerns over safety and environmental effects, as well as problems in administrative, managerial and financial implementation.[36] Efforts shifted from spraying to the use of bednets impregnated with insecticides and other interventions.[37][38]


      In the summer of 1972, Ruckelshaus announced the cancellation of most uses of DDT – exempting public health uses under some conditions.

      Today, about 3,000 to 4,000 tons of DDT are produced each year for disease vector control.[23] DDT is applied to the inside walls of homes to kill or repel mosquitoes. This intervention, called indoor residual spraying (IRS), greatly reduces environmental damage. It also reduces the incidence of DDT resistance.[49] For comparison, treating 40 hectares (99 acres) of cotton during a typical U.S. growing season requires the same amount of chemical as roughly 1,700 homes.[50]

      • Chicken
        May 21, 2016 at 6:53 pm

        DDT was grossly misused, as are many pesticides and agrochemicals. For example, as a kid I vividly recall, they used to run a truck up and down the streets spraying it everywhere, this was the mosquito fogging truck, We used to run back and forth across the street playing in this mosquito fog, we were told it was safe.

        There was no malaria in our location, never had been and still isn’t. Thus the invertible happened due to this abuse, this should be a no-brainer.

        I sure would like to have the foundation of my new home treated using DDT, it’s simply not available, neither are the fantastic chemistry sets we used to have, all gone “for our own good.”

        Man evolves externally.

    • frederick
      May 18, 2016 at 11:23 am

      SAY WHAT? How much does Monsatan pay you to post such nonsense johnny?

    • superdelli
      May 19, 2016 at 3:59 am

      The price of the food you buy in the hypermarket is 80-90% made up of storage and transportation costs, not production. GMO does not make food more plentiful or affordable, low oil prices and efficient refrigeration do. And the absence of civil war.
      It is widely known that the world already produces more than enough food to feed everybody (heard of the butter mountain)? GMO doesnt make it safer or more nutritious. GMO companies do not address a pressing economic need or consumer demand, much less address world hunger. They are about investing in political lobbying to monopolize the supply and block entry into the market by local and diverse producers.

  5. Pam Parsons
    May 18, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Very interesting update on Monsanto as protagonist in Peril’s of Pauline shark attack.
    Jockeying around glyphosate approval tied with the fate of GMO foods and agribiz since many of the GE crops are glyphosate-resistant.
    A drama on the consumer side (GMO labeling) may be assisted with the 2015 publication of attorney Steven M. Druker’s outstanding book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: how the venture to genetically engineer our food has subverted science, corrupted government and systematically deceived the public.
    Steven Druker points out that the more people know about the recombinant process the less they like it.
    Druker explains in his introduction: “the narrative that unfolds in the following pages is fundamentally … about corruption of science … through the workings of mainstream scientific establishments in concert with large multi-nationals – and their co-option of government officials … across the globe”. Using words in similar fashion to ‘Communist’, ‘Terrorist’, ‘Conspiracy Theorist’, the GMO industry has positioned any skepticism about GMO food safety as ‘Anti-Science’. Altered Genes, Twisted Truth holds a mirror to this facade.
    Conventional media wisdom and government decree have declared that GM foods are safe to eat, the process is precisely controlled, and that we, the ignorant public, have no scientific reason to fear GE hash browns or recombinant radishes.
    But Chapter 4 carefully walks the reader through the uncensored history of the recombinant DNA/gene splicing process, and in so doing makes clear that GE bacteria, plants and animals are unnatural, highly artificial, and contain freakish “cassettes” of foreign genes and gene regulators that “violate energy efficiency and feedback systems” of the host organism.
    Many scientists, including Mae Wan Ho, Philip Regal, Manuela Malatesta, Ann Clark, Elaine Ingham, Arpad Pusztai and Gille-Eric Seralini have offered scientific evidence about the harm uncovered in research on recombinant DNA foods. Government spokespeople and mainstream media have ignored these experts, or, when they couldn’t, have destroyed their careers, threatened journal editors until they censored authentic research, and knowingly published false and/or misleading ‘scientific fact’ supporting the industry’s insistence that rDNA chimeras are:
    1.     no different from unaltered organisms (substantially equivalent)
    2.     the product of better and more precise scientific control

    But the introduction of foreign GE matter into host DNA is highly imprecise, with completely unpredictable results – meaning that, as many scientists have warned, each GE organism is uniquely crippled or partially disabled due to the forced entry of foreign genetic material.
    “Steven Druker’s … spellbinding narrative should serve as a clarion call … his chapter detailing the deadly epidemic of 1989-90 that was linked with a genetically engineered food supplement is especially significant. I and my Mayo Clinic colleagues were active participants in the attempts to identify the cause of this epidemic. Druker provides a comprehensive analysis … and presents new findings from our work. … his discussion of this tragic event … is the most comprehensive, evenly balanced and accurate account that I have read.”
    Stephen Naylor, PhD, CEO and Chairman of MaiHealth Inc. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology & Pharmacology Mayo Clinic (1991-2001)

    “A great book. The evidence is comprehensive and irrefutable, the reasoning is clear and compelling. No one has documented other cases of irresponsible behavior by government regulators and the scientific establishment nearly as well as Druker documents this one.”
    — John Ikerd, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus of Genetics, Western University, London, Ontario
    I highly recommend anyone who is concerned about what is in their food to read this book for all the details it is impossible to cover in a posting.

    • frederick
      May 18, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Good stuff Pam thanks so much and i will continue to grow my own organic vegetables and fruits and raise my organically fed chickens geese turkeys and ducks and enjoy every minute of doing so No GMO for me thank you

    • No Terror Anymore
      May 18, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Maybe China’s buying the industry to change it! Look at Russia, they’re going to produce the world’s cleanest food, organic food. Bet we’ll be seeing Russian food here in the US in 5 years.

      • d
        May 18, 2016 at 4:41 pm

        Considering the average levels of radioactive and other heavy meatlls along with poisons in the average Russian agricultural units soil it is not possible for them to produce “Healthy Organic food”.

        You cant grow good things, in bad soil.

        As china is discovering.

  6. Mark
    May 18, 2016 at 2:52 am

    Surprised to see that Bayer was in the insecticide market-they sell a bed-bug spray that seems to work-or it would be the Diatomaceous Earth in combination

  7. Tom Welsh
    May 18, 2016 at 4:56 am

    Oh, I see. Contrary to my instinctive reaction – that after all we could revert to small farms growing natural produce – because of diseases and pests arising from overpopulation, we must throw ourselves upon the mercy of a handful of vast, soulless, profit-seeking corporations.

    Ralph Nader satirized this belief quite effectively in his nove, “Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us”.

    • frederick
      May 18, 2016 at 11:31 am

      Thats what theyd like us to believe Tom but İ dont buy theyre arguement for a second İ believe its all about corporate control of the populace İ live in Turkey and we still have so much great inexpensive fruits and vegetables it truly amazing great organic eggs chicken and fresh fish too at a fraction of US prices İ can actually afford to eat well here

  8. Dan Romig
    May 18, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Don’t forget that land grant universities are in the seed breeding/genetics business also. Bayer (amongst others) has given many university Ag programs million dollar ‘donations’. Bayer uses this to gain access to the genetics developed at the universities.

    The reach of glyphosate is so pervasive on Planet Earth now that organic wines from Napa Valley have it in them. Beer from Germany can contain it too. Quaker Oats is in trouble because their ‘Natural’ oatmeal contains glyphosate.

    As I’ve posted to WS before, my family had a traditional wheat seed breeding/genetics company in Minnesota from ’93 to ’10, and we competed with U of MN, NDSU, SDSU, Monsanto and Syngenta. We sold our business to Limagrain Cereal Seeds of France, and they are using cutting edge technology to develop varieties of wheat and barley, but not in a GMO manner that is used in corn, soy and sugar beets.

    Farmers have been told by Monsanto that Roundup is a benign herbicide, and they have been using it on non GMO cereal crops to assist harvesting – both in controlling timing and making it easer to combine. This practice puts glyphosate in your pancakes, oatmeal and cereal!

    Farmers have a lot of variables to deal with, and putting Roundup on a wheat field a few days before harvest helps dry the straw and grain as it kills the plant. Dry straw is much easier to slice with the combine’s cutter bar, and dry grain is much easier for the combine to thresh. Plus, the farmer can set the time to harvest (with an eye on the weather) to their own schedule.

    Thank you to DQ for telling it like it is!

  9. Plutocratnik
    May 18, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Re: the GMO threat to humans:

    Dupont and multigenerational genetic damage:

    Humans are already becoming victims of the Teflon contaminant PFOA ? [aka C8 , or perfluorooctanoic acid.]
    It is an unpleasant surprise; globally; kept quiet for decades; known to produce multigenerational genetic damage.

    PFOA is released at elevated cooking temperatures, apparently well above 212F [boiling water], such as prep of fried foods using Teflon-type coatings for non-stick.
    Teflon is a Dupont trademark. Similar plastics are made by others. The plastic is chemically known as PTFE [ polytetrafluoroethylene] and PFOA is used in its processing and remains as a residue.

    There’s more to Mergers & Acquisitions than meets the big numbers. For example, try Principals Hollowing Out The Company for a fit.

    There is a commoner”s analog :
    Scene- Nuklear Power Plant with 2 reactors. New worker being given orientation by Old-Hand.

    O-H– See those 2 domes?

    NW– Yeah.

    O-H– They’re full of money. Our job is to empty them out.

    • Chicken
      May 21, 2016 at 6:38 pm

      If you have a bird in your home, one quick way to make him very sick or often die, is by overheating your non-stick teflon cooking pan.

      That’s saying something.

  10. d
    May 18, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    If Monsanto is eaten by the Germans. Possibly a little injection of Ethics and Morals.

    May occur in the GMO seed and Pesticides industry.

    Monsanto defiantly being the biggest Evil, in an unpleasant club.

  11. Agnes
    May 19, 2016 at 1:09 am

    I was avoiding corn, but I really missed my tostadas and enchiladas, so I kept checking the corn tortilla label and a few months ago I saw the Kosher mark appear :) Kosher foods may not be gmo. Then!! it was missing…so i looked on the back and there it was! They must have peen pressured to make it lower key. Then I found nonHigh Fructose corn syrup Catsup and BBQ sauce…We are being heard when we vote with our pocketbooks. As a quite (ahem!) mature Biologist and Gardener I can relate what I read in Organic gardening 30 years ago(I don’t have the citation)….foods grown in mulched soils are a different pH and do not easily pick up heavy metals. It was a study done by busy city streets to see if organic mulched soils were easily contaminated. The veggies needed to be thoroughly washed on the outside but picked up relatively small amounts of metals as long as the soil was more than one foot from the street.

    • d
      May 19, 2016 at 10:29 am

      “The veggies needed to be thoroughly washed on the outside but picked up relatively small amounts of metals as long as the soil was more than one foot from the street.”

      As long as the 2 Ft (600MM) deep soil the crop is grown in is contaminant free to start with.

      After/during harvest the top layer of mulch will need to be disposed of elsewhere as it is acting as a filter and will contain the airborne contaminants.

      If it is inadvertently dug into the clean soil it contaminates it..

  12. Chicken
    May 21, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Assuming you’re attempting to grow non-GMO, also realize your harvest will be negatively impacted by the glyphosate wafting in from perhaps miles away.

    Planting ever larger fields destroys habitat of native life, birds, butterflies and honey bees feed on, this is wildlife habitat destruction.

    The 1%ers aren’t interested in population growth, for environmental reasons. It could be said they’re your ally from this perspective. I keep this in mind.

  13. Smitty
    May 24, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Was Monsanto another “beard” for global Socialist consolidation only to be sold to foreigners exactly like HP was?

    Transfer all IP and hard assets offshore, use the firm as a immigration tool of invasion?

    I bet Monsanto has a entirely recently insourced workforce.

    • d
      May 24, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      Monsanto was a “BAD ” Entity.

      Long before it Moved into Agriculture.

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