Despite widespread opposition among the residents of Europe, the European Union is set to grant anti-trust approval of a $62.5 billion merger between German chemical giant Bayer and the U.S-based Monsanto, according to reports on Wednesday.
"The European Commission should stop this merger from hell."
—Joerg Rohwedder, WeMove.eu
Reuters reported that sources familiar with the review expect it to be approved soon. Bayer, which has agreed to sell off some assets to appease European regulators, would only say that it was continuing "a constructive dialogue with the EU competition watchdog" and "the regulatory process in Europe was further advanced than in the United States where the deal also requires clearance."
The Wall Street Journal also reported on the likelihood of imminent EU approval, citing anonymous sources, and noted that a review by the U.S. Justice Department is ongoing. Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann, who spoke with the Journal, "expressed optimism that the deal would ultimately win regulatory approval, with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, and authorities in Brazil already giving the nod."
As the April 5 deadline nears for the European Commission—the EU's executive arm—to make a final decision, food, farming, and corporate accountability groups are working together to raise awareness about the concerns posed by what they are calling the #MergerFromHell.
Anne Isakowitsch, campaign manager at the global advocacy group SumOfUs, warned that "a merged Bayer-Monsanto would be relentless in its pursuit of putting corporate profits over the protection of small farms—eventually driving up prices for consumers."
Merged together #Bayer and #Monsanto will be a super-powerful "too big to fail" corporate monster defending #GMOs and #Pesticides: let us stop this #Marriagefromhell. No to #Baysanto! pic.twitter.com/2OfXL8rgzu
— For a GMO-free EU (@GMOFreeEU) February 26, 2018
"The planned merger between these giant agribusiness corporations has very little public support," noted Adrian Bebb, a food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. "EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager has built her reputation on holding powerful corporations to account, and she must seize the opportunity to block this dangerous and unpopular merger."
Opponents have sent more than 50,000 emails and more than 5,000 letters to Vestager, according to Reuters. More than 200 advocacy groups have come out (pdf) against the merger, and more than a million people have signed a pair of petitions by SumOfUs and WeMove.eu.
Friends of the Earth Europe, on Twitter, highlighted a YouGov poll that found a majority of respondents from Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, and the U.K. believe it is "very" or "fairly important" for the European Commission to block the merger.
NEW: first-ever public opinion poll of the Bayer-Monsanto merger – citizens across the EU issue a clear call to EU competition chief @vestager to block the #MergerFromHell. Full story & stats >> https://t.co/FN40tKaO5R pic.twitter.com/LDtJcL8ueF
— Friends of the Earth (@foeeurope) February 27, 2018
"Citizens in Europe care about what grows on the fields and ends up on their plates. A large proportion of them expect the merger, if agreed, would have a negative impact on farmers and the environment," added Joerg Rohwedder, a senior campaigner at WeMove.eu. "The European Commission should stop this merger from hell."