Why a “chemical multinational” also wants GMOs
Monsanto and Bayer have become one giant multinational able to control the entire sector of chemicals for people. In this way, the GMO-glyphosate pairing may soon reach the tables of Europeans too.
It was 2016, September in fact, when chemical and pharmaceutical multinational Bayer, based in Germany, successfully acquired American giant Monsanto, a leader in the production of pesticides, weed killers and genetically modified seeds (GMOs) which resist the phytopharmaceuticals it produces. The negotiations lasted five months and after some hesitation, Monsanto accepted the marriage proposal worth 66 billion dollars (almost 62 billion Euro), accumulated debts included. It is predicted that the merger will be completed by the end of 2017 and will allow Bayer to increase its agricultural sector turnover in a consistent way.
Profit before people
It’s not the first time that Bayer has tried to merge with a company whose core business is agriculture. It already tried the same approach in 2015, with Monsanto’s Swiss competitor, Syngenta. But why all this interest in companies that produce phytopharmaceuticals and create GMOs?
“The director of Bayer, like other similar business people, thinks he can feed the world with a closed system, controlled in its every detail. These people think they can increase production and feed a population that continues to grow”, states writer and journalist Stefano Liberti, the author, among other things, of ‘I signori del cibo’ (the food lords), who was interviewed in Ferrara during the Internazionale publication’s festival.
Food as a commodity
In this way, they try to transform food into a commodity, to transform the food system into a branch of finance on which speculators can invest without concern, aware that the “food market” won’t go the same way as the housing market, which exploded like a soap bubble in 2008. The facts speak for themselves: the demand for food is increasing because so too is the number of people on Earth: the prediction is 9 billion people by 2050, compared to 7.4 million at the start of 2017.
“My initial suggestion, subsequently confirmed by research in the field, was that when the stock market went into crisis in 2008, speculation shifted from the housing sector to the food sector because it was considered a safe investment, a safe-haven asset that would allow for greater, less volatile profits, in the face of demographic growth that translates into a consequent increase in food requirements. The system was therefore ‘financialised’, pushing costs down and giving life to enormous industries that made economy of scale their goal. And devouring the smallest producers in the process”, highlights Liberti.
European agriculture is at risk
In this context, it is easier to hypothesise as to the reasons for this merger. By “assuming” Monsanto, Bauer has in fact added to its chemical products portfolio with a round-up that contains glyphosate as its active principle, one of the most discussed weed killers in recent months that has caused a divide within the European Union as to whether or not to renew its use in agriculture. Germany in particular, the homeland of Bayer, would have abstained in the case of a vote on the renewal of glyphosate in Europe. A split that we will see once again come 31 December 2017, when the unilateral renewal requested by Brussels to obviate the vacuum left by the 28 European nations on the issue will expire. The same date, coincidently, on which the Bayer-Monsanto merger is expected to reach completion. At that point, it will take much more than a simple public petition to stop a new renewal. And we must recognise that the risk of Europe becoming home to a chemical and transgenic seed firm like Monsanto, sidelined until now thanks to preventative policies that prioritise biodiversity and the health of citizens, is extremely high.