After weeks of speculation, chemical giant Bayer and biotech behemoth Monsanto have cleared a significant regulatory hurdle in their bid to consolidate into one company through a multibillion-dollar deal that critics are calling the "merger from Hell."
"The coming together of these two is a marriage made in hell—bad for farmers, bad for consumers, and bad for our countryside."
—Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe
Ahead of its April deadline, on Wednesday the European Commission—the European Union's executive arm—approved Bayer's proposed takeover of U.S.-based Monsanto, claiming that concessions made by the companies alleviated competition concerns that critics have raised with regulators in both Europe and the United States.
Although the Commission's decision is a major win for the companies, U.S. regulators have not yet weighed in. Still, Wednesday's announcement alarmed activists that have spent months protesting the deal.
"This merger will create the world's biggest and most powerful agribusiness corporation, which will try to force its genetically modified seeds and toxic pesticides into our food and countryside," warned Adrian Bebb, a food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
"The Commission decision also allows them, together with BASF, to become data giants in agriculture—the 'Facebooks of farming'—with all the pitfalls that entails," Bebb added. "The coming together of these two is a marriage made in hell—bad for farmers, bad for consumers, and bad for our countryside."
BASF—a German company, like Bayer—has agreed to buy assets from Bayer, which has been key to winning over regulators.
"The Commission ignored a million people who called on them to block this deal, and caved in to lobbying to create a mega-corporation which will dominate our food supply."
—Nick Flynn, Avaaz
Farmers, environmentalists, and consumer advocates who oppose the merger have repeatedly pointed to polling that shows Europeans aren't in favor of it. As Common Dreams reported last month, "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."
"The Commission ignored a million people who called on them to block this deal, and caved in to lobbying to create a mega-corporation which will dominate our food supply," Nick Flynn, legal director of the online campaigns group Avaaz, told Reuters.
"The agriculture industry is already far too concentrated, giving a handful of massive firms a strangle hold on food production," noted Bart Staes, a food safety spokesman for The Greens–European Free Alliance. "Merging two of the biggest players only makes a bad situation worse."
Critics of the merger, including global advocacy group SumOfUs, vowed to continue the fight against it by increasing pressuring on U.S. regulators.
The EU has just approved the Bayer-Monsanto merger from hell. This is a massive blow to all of us who stood up against this dangerous merger. But the fight isn’t over. U.S. regulators can still block this deal. And we’ll do everything in our power to get them to stop the merger. pic.twitter.com/yhjkAa1yDC
— Sum Of Us (@SumOfUs) March 21, 2018