A Lancashire farmer sent news, later reported by the FT’s Emiko Terazono, that the agricultural seeds and chemicals group, Monsanto, hopes to buy a rival Swiss agrochemical company, Syngenta.
For years, a large proportion of Monsanto’ profits came from genetically modified glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready seeds. The chemical glyphosate, which was put on the market in the 1970s under the trade name Roundup, had become one of the most widely used herbicides in growing soyabean and corn.
However, increasing weed resistance to Roundup has been threatening the US agrigroup’s revenues, and herbicide sales data shows farmers are already reducing their glyphosate use for other herbicides, even if they are more expensive. The Economics of Glyphosate Resistance Management in Corn and Soybean Production, on the US Department of Agriculture’s website, recorded in April that 14 glyphosate resistant weed species have been documented in the US.
As the advice given is to rotate different herbicides, Monsanto would be enabled to do this after acquiring Syngenta, by adding the wide range of herbicides listed in Syngenta’s product guide, to its increasingly problematic Roundup herbicide.
Earlier this year the World Health Organisation said that glyphosate was “classified as probably carcinogenic to humans” – a claim Monsanto rejects. See the Press release: IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides” (PDF). International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization. March 20, 2015.
Analysts estimate that acquiring Syngenta, the world’s largest crop chemical producer would give Monsanto control of almost a third of that sector – a similar ratio to its share of the global seeds business.
Bloomberg comments that slower growth and lower commodity prices are putting pressure on the agricultural-chemical industry to consolidate. It predicts that this deal would set the stage for even more mergers and acquisitions.
NGO SumOfUs works to limit the power of massive agribusiness corporations and has set up a petition opposing the proposed purchase, saying:
“No single corporation should be allowed to wield the sort of power that comes from a near-monopoly on our global food system”.