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A Call for Oversight for Ag Mega-Mergers

Small farmers say mega-mergers in the agriculture industry hurt them. (
Small farmers say mega-mergers in the agriculture industry hurt them. (
February 15, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – Nearly 325 organizations have signed a letter pressing new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make sure the Justice Department does its job without political interference when it looks at a proposal to let Dow Chemical and DuPont, Monsanto and Bayer, and Syngenta and ChemChina merge.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food-futures campaigner for Friends of the Earth, says her group and others want Congress to provide oversight because President Donald Trump met with the CEOs of Monsanto just before he was inaugurated.

"It raised a lot of ethics questions for lawyers who are very well versed in anti-trust law, because they said that this is very uncommon; that presidents hardly ever, and really in history, have not interfered in this way," she explained.

The letter says if all three deals were to close, the newly created companies would control nearly 70 percent of the world's pesticide market, more than 60 percent of commercial seed sales, and 80 percent of the U.S. corn-seed market. Trump has said the mergers would create jobs and boost the U.S. economy.

Joe Maxwell, executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, says big mergers are bad for the environment, small farmers, rural communities and consumers. He cites climate change as one reason the nation needs more diversified and competitive development.

"There's little incentive for these companies to do further research and development on these seeds," he said. "We all worry about having too few strains or genes in those seeds. If we become too dependent, we'll look just like Ireland did in the potato famine."

Lisa Griffith, interim director of the National Family Farm Coalition, says when these mergers happen, prices go up and some seed varieties disappear.

"A lot of these varieties that are available from the agri-chemical corporations are GM varieties, genetically modified, which may not be what the farmer wants," said Griffith.

Groups signing the letter include the Biosafety Alliance, Midwest Pesticide Action Center, the Center for Food Safety and Moms Across America.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN