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Sessions Urged to Reject Mega-Mergers

Small farmers in Illinois are convinced that mergers of giant chemical companies would hurt them financially. (Illinois.gov)
Small farmers in Illinois are convinced that mergers of giant chemical companies would hurt them financially. (Illinois.gov)
February 17, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - 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 allow the mergers of Dow Chemical and DuPont, Monsanto and Bayer, and Syngenta and ChemChina.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a food-futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said her group and others want Congress to provide oversight, because President Trump met with the chief executives 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," she said, "because they said that this is very uncommon; that presidents hardly ever - and really in history, have not - interfered in this way."

The letter said that 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.

Groups signing the letter include Environment Illinois, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and Illinois Right to Know GMO.

Joe Maxwell, executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, said big mergers are bad for the environment, small farmers, rural communities and consumers. He cited 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 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."

When these types of mergers happen, said Lisa Griffith, interim director of the National Family Farm Coalition, 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," she said, "which may not be what the farmer wants."

More information is online at foe.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL