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Canadian farmers call on Competition Board over Bayer Monsanto deal

Bayer AG’s $66 billion takeover offer of agri-giant Monsanto will make the new entity the largest seed and pesticide company in the world.

Published: October 10, 2016, 10:42 am

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    The merger is expected to be finalized by the end of 2017. Bayer is set to pay Monsanto $2 billion, should the deal end up being blocked by regulators.

    Farmers in Canada have called on the Competition Bureau to review the Monsanto takeover. If the merger goes through, four companies will remain providing 59 percent of the global seeds and 64 percent of the world’s pesticides.

    They now want a federal review on the possible implications of Bayer’s US takeover: “Our position right now would be for the Competition Bureau to really … examine what the impact is going to be and making sure that there’s fair pricing and competition in the marketplace,” said Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

    GMOs are widely used in Canadian canola, corn, soybean and sugar beet crops, but many consumers don’t actually know which products are genetically modified, as there is no requirement for GMO labelling in Canada.

    Monsanto advocates claim labelling would make no difference, partly because consumers are already overloaded with decisions to make around food, including calorie counts and sodium levels.

    Political figures have waded into the debate with early Democratic contender Bernie Sanders going on record to state that the takeover is “a threat to all Americans” and needs to be blocked.

    Sanders wants the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to “reopen its investigation of Monsanto’s monopoly over the seed and chemical market.

    The Wall Street Journal reported that the ever-increasing costs of Monsanto seeds are causing many American farmers to reconsider their use of the genetically engineered (GE) product. It has become increasingly difficult to justify the higher prices for seeds, while crop prices diminish, they say.

    Part of the problem is that farmers are simply growing too much GE corn and soy, making it difficult to recoup their investment, and the threat of even higher prices for GE seeds and chemicals is becoming a headache to many.

    Since their introduction 20 years ago, genetically engineered seeds have become ubiquitous as almost 94 percent of soybean acres now planted are biotech varieties, as are 92 percent of corn acres according to the US Department of Agriculture.

    But with rising prices for modified, or GMO, seed, and measly returns, many farmers stand to lose money. The issue of seed pricing has a direct impact on farmers, and even if consumers are often shielded initially from increases, such increases eventually trickle down.

    Crop seeds prices have nearly quadrupled since 1996, when Monsanto became the first of the companies to launch biotech varieties. Yet major crop prices have been falling for three years in a row now.

    Monsanto, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo. is one of the largest producers of seeds in the world, including many genetically engineered varieties, and makes the weed killer Roundup. The genetically engineered seeds are resistant to Roundup, so farmers are forced to use it to get rid of weeds affecting their crops.

    Some farmers and scientists credit GMOs with producing higher-yielding, more sustainable crops, but opponents are concerned there could be detrimental health or environmental effects which, they say, may not yet be known.

    An estimated 60 to 70 per cent of processed foods on North American grocery store shelves contain ingredients that come from genetically modified plants.

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