Despite serious concerns among antitrust experts and the likely consequences of the largest agribusiness corporate merger in recorded history, President Donald Trump is ready to give his blessing to Bayer as it prepares to take over Monsanto.
This, despite the fact that such a merger will mean that the company will control nearly 30% of the global seed market – as well as 60% of the US cottonseed market – and a quarter of the world’s pesticide market.
Obviously, there is reason to worry when a global corporation wields that kind of power – but that’s OK, because Trump tells us it will mean more high-paying jobs for Americans.
But will it?
According to Trump’s mouthpiece, Sean Spicer, following a “productive meeting” with the CEOs of both companies, “Bayer has committed to $8 billion in new U.S. research and development…keep 100 percent of Monsanto’s 9,000 plus U.S. workforce, and add 3,000 new U.S. high-tech jobs.” That is the potential upside (assuming the new corporate behemoth stands by its “commitment” – by no means a foregone conclusion).
Bayer and Monsanto also announced plans to invest $8 billion in agriculture research and development in the US over the next six years. This, according to Bayer and Monsanto, represents “an investment in innovation and people that will create several thousand new high-tech, well-paying jobs after integration is complete.”
Now, for the bad news. Currently, the global market for seed and pesticide is dominated by only six massive corporations – and after this merger goes through, that number will drop to four. The likely consequence is that farmers will see higher operating costs and fewer choices. This, in turn, will drive up food prices for everyone.
That isn’t the worst of it. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, who works for the Pesticide Action Network, points out that the merger will enable Monsanto and its ilk to “continue pushing a model of agriculture that has given us superweeds, superbugs and health-harming pesticides.” A senior scientist for the organization, Ishii-Eiteman believes (and rightly so) that we should “invest in agroecological, resilient and productive farming.” Fat chance of that happening.
Trump’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, has shown little support for sustainable agriculture. He has, however, expressed his contempt for “liberals” who he claims exaggerate the effects of climate change. In an op-ed piece in the National Review, he wrote that “liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”
At the same time, Trump’s choice for attorney general, racist Jeff Sessions, is a blatant corporatist. Since the merger between Bayer and Monsanto will have to pass muster with the Department of Justice, should Sessions be confirmed (as seems likely), this ill-advised merger will get ready approval.
There is one glimmer of hope. A number of Trump’s agricultural advisers are speaking out against these mergers, which they fear will increase farmers’ operating costs as well as reduce choices and place control of agricultural research under the control of foreign corporations. Many of them are demanding a closer examination of these proposed mergers. Trump himself has been a critic of these large mergers in the past.
As recently as October, he said he would block a proposed $85 billion merger between AT&T and Time-Warner. However, as we have seen, Trump’s words are one thing – his actions are something else altogether.