A deal that will create the world’s largest integrated digital agriculture, seed and pesticide company, has raised some alarm bells for the National Farmer's Union (NFU).
Vice President of Policy Jan Slomp told farmnewsNOW Bayer's acquisition of Monsanto means fewer choices for farmers, and gives private sector companies more control over what products are available on store shelves. Monsanto is the world’s largest seed company and Bayer is the world’s largest pesticide company. Both companies also sell digital agriculture systems. This deal is the latest in other developments, including the merger between Agrium and PotashCorp last fall to create Nutrien.
"Anytime there is consolidation and fewer companies offering the same thing, it's not good for farmers because less choice means farmers get stuck paying what those companies want to charge," Slomp said.
On May 30, 2018 Canada’s Competition Bureau approved Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto with conditions. The Competition Bureau has asked Bayer to divest some of its Canadian canola, soybean, vegetable seed and herbicide assets before it will allow it to buy agricultural business Monsanto. The watchdog said if the assets aren't sold the takeover would likely substantially lessen competition in Canada's seeds and crop treatment sector. Slomp said the deal itself is not worrisome.
"The worrying aspects are through trade agreements particularly because we have increased intellectual property protection empowering the seed companies to develop seed but at the same time governments are cutting back on public plant breeding," he said.
Slomp said traditionally the big difference between the public and private sectors has been that public plant breeding focuses not only on higher yields but also disease resistance. He said the private sector tends to focus all its attention on yields.
"What is compromised is disease resistance especially when we talk about fungi that can be treated with fungicides that can be delivered by the same companies that develop the seed," he said.
The United States Justice Department, European Union, Brazil, Russia and China have approved the deal. Bayer still needs approval from Mexico before it can close on the deal.
Slomp said the NFU will call on the provincial and federal governments to limit, not enhance, the power of the multinational agribusiness corporations, when discussing trade agreements.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell
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