The EU (with Help from Germany) just Made Monsanto’s Day

One of Germany’s largest companies is trying to buy Monsanto, which changes everything.

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

A majority of EU governments voted on Monday to extend the European license for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s flagship product, Roundup, for another five years. One of the deciding votes was cast by the caretaker government of Germany, which came off the fence after abstaining in previous meetings.

The decision was made despite a petition signed by more than 1.3 million EU citizen-subjects calling for a European ban on the weedkiller.

The five-year extension is welcome news for Monsanto, which has found itself in the rather unusual position of being on the back foot in recent years, especially since the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) declared that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic”. The company is facing a rash of potentially costly law suits in the US from farmers, members of their families, and others who claim that Roundup is connected to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

It’s also good news for the German chemical behemoth Bayer, which is trying to acquire Monsanto for €66 billion. Bayer’s main area of expertise is developing pesticides, but if it pulls off the merger, the deal would create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and farm chemicals. Uncertainties about deal remain, however. Bayer would need to take on a huge amount of debt in order to acquire Monsanto; and US anti-trust regulators appear to have woken up recently.

But if it were to get the go-ahead for the deal, Bayer would certainly prefer to have its acquisition target in the best financial health possible, and that might be difficult if it were forced to withdraw or phase out its biggest selling product from one of its most lucrative markets.

Plus, if the EU were to go ahead and ban or phase out glyphosate, it could set a very dangerous precedent that might be eagerly followed by other countries. It’s not just Monsanto’s products that feature glyphosate; so, too, do products sold by a host of other agrochemical big-hitters, including BASF, Syngenta, Dow Chemical, DuPont and China’s Zhejiang Wynca Chemical.

As such, despite the blossoming public opposition in Europe to the continued use of a chemical that many fear is doing terrible damage to both human health and the environment, the decision about whether to extend glyphosate’s license was always going to be a hard-nosed business one, especially given that Europe’s immensely powerful biotech lobby 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 5th and 6th biggest corporations (Bayer and BASF) have a potentially vital stake in the outcome of the glyphosate debate was always 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.”

Lo and behold, in September it was revealed that dozens of pages of a study on the health risks of glyphosate by the European food safety authority (EFSA) are word-for-word copies of passages in an application submitted by Monsanto on behalf of the Glyphosate Task Force (GTF). The sections analyse peer-reviewed studies into links between glyphosate and genotoxicity (how likely it is to cause cell mutations), carcinogenicity, and reproductive damage.

“They quoted long bits and pieces,” said Sven Giegold, a German member of the European Parliament from the Green Party. “You would be committing fraud if you did this for your Ph.D.”

For Monsanto, a company that has long perfected the art of befriending and subverting governments, lawmakers, academia and national regulators worldwide, a little spot of plagiarism and ghostwriting is small beer.

Indeed, so extensive is the influence of Monsanto & friends over the workings of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that an email between two US EPA officials in May 2015 disclosed that the EFSA had already decided to reject the finding by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a “possible human carcinogen.” But the IARC Monograph containing the data on which the cancer agency based its March 2015 assessment had not yet been published – and only became available to the EFSA and others on 29 July 2015.

This strongly implies that the EFSA had already made up its mind to fight the IARC verdict before it had even seen any data underlying the assessment or had done its own assessment.

After that, it was just a question of convincing enough European governments to buy the story and toe the line. The fact that it took two years to be able to achieve that is testament to just how toxic Monsanto & friends’ legacy has become. By Don Quijones.

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  30 comments for “The EU (with Help from Germany) just Made Monsanto’s Day

  1. pinkfish says:

    Exactly as one would expect from the EU. Hypocrisy written large.

    Corporate capture beyond belief, manipulation and who knows what corruption.

  2. JR says:

    It is all OK. The “Greens” in Germany have taken their eyes off the environment ball, and are all concentrated on supporting impoverished refugees and their extended families using German taxpayer money. Oh yes and their is a “surplus” of taxpayer money at the moment. Oh yes, and the “Soli” (Solidarity temporary tax) is still going strong after it was introduced after the reunification. What 27 years later? So the Greens certainly will have no objections to widespread use of Monsanto products followed by the crepping in of GMO Roundup ready seeds and the associated lawsuits against neighboring farmers. Popcorn is popped and ready. GMO fee butter already in the freezer.

  3. QQQBall says:

    There is a good talk about this on Chris Martensen’s Peak Prosperity

  4. Fin says:

    It is a little worse I guess, estimado Don Quijones.
    Germany has a farming minister CDU and an environmental minister SPD – and she from SPD is sour like a lemon about what (the most hated man in Germany today) the farming minister has done.
    [original here:
    my translation: “Exactly 2 hours before the vote at 12:30 I phoned him and told I do not agree with a prolongation of Glyphosat under any circumstances, he confirmed at 13:07 via SMS.” (the idea was to stay neutral then – but he did not give a rat ass for what the environmental minister wanted and voted his vote: YES!)]

    This is especially great timing as Merkel CDU wants again a big coalition with SPD and these guys must be now pissed off for good – well, I guess everybody with a rest of braincells is pissed off with CDU by now.
    No Merkel did not fire him, he received only a little slap on the wrist.
    And why fire him anyway? Germany still has (two months after elections) the same government as these clowns are unable to form a new one. The only party which wanted to reign with the most destructive chanceler of my lifetime (please hold your breath!) are the the Greens.
    As I do not know how to close my thoughts about this madness in my home country, allow me to use help from a native english speaker:
    “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it”. M. Twain

  5. Dan Romig says:

    Glyphosate is indeed a toxic chemical.

    This was published on 18 April 2013:

    As I have posted before, my family had a wheat seed genetics company which we ran from 1993 to 2010. We sold our company to Limagrain Cereal Seeds, but Bayer Crop Science also was interested in buying us out. LCS began as a farmer’s co-op in France, and my dad preferred their business model to Bayer.

    Prior to starting our wheat company, my dad dad was head of R&D at Northrup King Seeds, which was a subsidiary of Syngenta, and he developed the Syngenta BT Corn program before stepping away from ‘Big Ag’ at age 63.

    Unfortunately, there’s Roundup in many of the non-GMO crops that are grown in North America, and are found in the food we buy at the grocery store-unbeknownst to many.

  6. Isn’t the GMO debate essentially about engineering crops resistant to Glyphosate? The weedkiller issue is the gateway to far greater issues.

  7. Nick Kelly says:

    If you do decide to buy Roundup, it’s off patent in Canada so I assume in US too. Clear Path has exactly the same active ingredient for half price.

  8. timbers says:

    “Roundup – It Kills Everything.”

    I used Roundup to kill a tree directly against my property line next to my expensive fence with a concrete foundation. It’s roots were beginning to damage and move my fence/foundation. I bought the house recently on a shared corner, and the tree was at my neighbor’s property corner shaped like a pie sliver and the owner had doubled fenced the pie corner off, making it unreachable. I interpreted this as he didn’t care about that section of is land and took matters into my own hands – it hadn’t been attended to for years and smaller trees where taking over growing wild. The tree should have been taken care of 10 yrs prior when the fence was installed.

    So I drilled a couple of holes into the trunk and filled it with Roundup each morning and evening. When it stopped absorbing the liquid, I stopped, The tree is now dead and will crumble away over time. It was at least 40 ft maybe 50 ft tall, a maple.

    • walter map says:

      I had a problem 50-ft maple too. I sold it to an ébéniste who used half of it for firewood and sold the other half back to me as bookcases. No toxins were involved, unless you count the wood finish.

  9. walter map says:

    Not that I really mind that much, but your liver will eventually destroy itself trying to process glyphosate, unless you die of something else first, and after all, Monsanto is in no way responsible for your liver, because that’s your lookout, now isn’t it?

    People contain tens of thousands of industrial chemicals and the human liver didn’t evolve to handle any of them, plus radioisotopes, adverse genetic mutations, and so forth. A few chemicals are regulated, more or less. Good luck figuring out which one caused your list lethal condition here

  10. raxadian says:

    Hope you like cancer dear Europe, because that’s how you get cancer and a tons of other health problems.

    • Ricardo says:

      Back in the 1980’s when I lived in New Zealand I was a dairy farmer. I remember the guy from down the road who had the local spray contracting business. He used to go spraying in every kind of weather and you would often see him spraying in the wind and see the spray being blown back over him. Roundup was one of his preferred sprays of use. I recall the odd times I would see him and talk and he always smelt strongly of chemical spray. He died of cancer. End of story.

      • d says:

        Those contractors now are mostly using BIODEGRADABLE sprays not round up.

        The stae and local body ones are no longer allowed to use roundup in NZ

  11. Quadra says:

    Its a disgrace. Makes me sick that Monsanto gets away with stuff like this one more time and this time even after the takeover, one would have hoped that Bayer would care a bit more.
    Glyphosate would surely have been banned before Bayer.
    Guess it makes a difference if its mine or theirs….

  12. d says:

    This is a short term reprieve for Monsanto only 5 years, and less in france.

    They have pulled off an American.

    “You cant prove, beyond all doubt, it is dangerous”.

    Reversal of what should be a

    “You cant prove, beyond all doubt, it is safe” Standard.

    Simply by throwing money (Lawyers) at the problem.

    Just like “Big Tobacco” did for decades.

    The people who are supposed to be “Protecting Society” have again been fooled (More likely Brought) by the Corporates.

    Americans and now Europeans seem to be happy eating corporate poisoned food, for the profit off the corporations they worship.

    Residual poison levels in Bread and Cereals are rising, and will continue to rise. As the practice of spraying crops with poison to kill it before harvest. becomes more prevalent.

    Agricultural poisons caused eggshell failures in Bird’s. Fact.

    Now Humans are piling the same sort of poisons into their females, in the Womb..

    Its a simple logical extension.

    You cant fix “Stupid”

    “The Meek shall inherit the earth.”

    Perhaps after the Corporates and their worshipers have poisoned themselves, only the “Meek” will be left.

  13. R Davis says:

    What do I know right………….
    Is this in fact a money raising venture ?
    Is this an attempt to give undue worth to Monsanto so as allow them to borrow bigger ?
    Is this about Monsanto having more capacity to borrow monies.
    As Monsanto the banned pariah – their borrowing power is diminished some what.
    Are the purchase interests of Bayer just a ploy to value add Monsanto to a bigger borrowing threshold.
    I can’t see why Bayer would want to place themselves into a sticky position of massive borrowing to purchase a company that is so loathed on planet earth.
    It is a financial risk to to buy Monsanto if there is ONLY a five year stay on the ban, no one has any way of knowing how bad it could get tomorrow – the financial losses would be catastrophic to the new owner.
    Bayer cannot be that stupid.

    • R Davis says:

      I wouldn’t touch Monsanto with a barge pole.

      • R Davis says:

        Also remember that it was the deciding vote of a caretaker government. This could change at any given moment.

        • R Davis says:

          Does the current & temporary / caretaker government of Germany have the authority to make such a binding decision as to grant Monsanto a 5 year reprieve / to extend the European licence for a continued 5 years use of glyphosate ?

          A decision that could be rescinded at a moments notice .. if not.

          “Bayer to acquire Monsanto .. the deal would create the worlds largest supplier of seeds & farm chemicals”

          Seeds & farm chemicals that are said to have supernatural & unnatural, pest resistance & mutation properties.
          But is it true ?
          Or is it just SNAKE OIL TRICKERY ?
          A sale pitch .. merely ?
          Pest resistant is in fact grain so saturated in pesticides that it also dies.
          This is our bread on the kitchen table.
          Which would make Monsanto inevitable worthless.
          As for Bayer – are they just buying off the competition 7 not the dead seed supply’s.

        • R Davis says:

          There is that old saying ….. A Fool & His Money Are Soon Parted.

      • d says:

        Leopards dont change their spots.

        Monsanto was not a good company to deal with, as a petrochemical company.

        Whey they Morphed into “Agri business and GM” they simply got worse.

        I dont see Bayers logic in this either.

  14. Mike Earussi says:

    The rich who voted to approve the Roundup extension can afford to eat organic food–the poisoned food is for the masses. Does anyone really think that those who manufacture and sell chemical sprays actually eat the food that those sprays are used on?

  15. Jon says:

    They poison our air (chemtrails), they poison our water (fluoride), they poison our food (Monsanto pesticides and Roundup), they made organic too expensive for most people, they teach doctors to give you pills instead of heal you with food (plants), they teach you an agenda based education with a specific narrative to condition you from a young age, they make college and houses so expensive so you stay a debt slave forever.

    America is such a great country!

    • Dan Romig says:

      Minnesota has a state statute, 144.145, that mandates that there must be on average 1.2 mg/liter of fluoride in all municipal water supplies with a minimum of .9 mg/L and a maximum of 1.5 mg/L.

      Here is a study that shows the effect of having fluoride in the urine of pregnant women, and how it reduces the child’s IQ:

      Limagrain Cereal Seeds in North America is headquartered in Fort Collins CO where there is no fluoride in the water. Fort Collins is home to many outstanding breweries, and water is the main ingredient of beer, eh?

  16. Javert Chip says:

    Don Quijones

    Your statement “…But if it were to get the go-ahead for the deal, Bayer would certainly prefer to have its acquisition target in the best financial health possible…” thoroughly confuses me.

    EU has just extended Round-Up license for 5 years, Monsanto value is maximized, Bayer will now pay higher price for Monsanto.

    Frankly (assuming you want to buy Monsanto) the acquisition cost would have been lower if EU failed to renew 5-year Round-Up license.

    The future Round-Up licensing business risk remains regardless of who owns Monsanto 5-years from now.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Javert, in my understanding, the acquisition price is a done deal. It’s no longer up for negotiation. They agreed on it. The hard part now is getting the deal approved by authorities and getting it funded. If Monsanto’s future looks a lot less good, it will be harder to get the $66-billion deal funded. Bayer will need to borrow a huge amount, and creditors might be leery.

  17. Realist says:

    Bayer’s interest in Monsanto is probably born by thd M&A craze caused by the cheap “money” provided by the CBs. I find it hard to believe they would do this deal in a world with sane financial markets. Bayer did survive ww1 and with, let’s how they will survive the current shebang when (if) the world regains sanity.

  18. mean chicken says:

    Glyphosate – With no coalition existing, the CDU had the only vote that mattered.

    Considering the lack of in-depth examination, and obvious use of one-liners controlling the narrative, people are being mislead I suspect.

    The entire subject appears farcical given I believe the primary strategy of environmentalists should initially be on it’s use as a crop desiccant.

    Other issues should be discussed as well, such as the subject of genetically modified resistance to glyphosate.

    Next thing you know, diesel powered vehicles will be banned and 50% of commuting population will be left with no transportation. Or perhaps that’s impossible as well, due to lack of coalition?

    To me, all of this illustrates poor planning (or campaign in favor of special interest groups?) on behalf of government.

    The conversation should be balanced with wildlife habitat destruction as well, and it’s apparent lack of importance. Monarch butterfly migration, milkweed, etc. Where are those discussions?

    Considering globalization has caused increased fossil fuel consumption and everything that came with, where’s that discussion?

    The list of nonsense goes on and on…..

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