|Photo by Global Justice Now|
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Mega-mergers threaten our right to healthy and accessible foods!
Mega-mergers of the likes of the £16BN Bayer – Monsanto merger, have left a disturbing mark in the agribusiness industry, as they continue to threaten people’s rights to food sovereignty. This has led to consequences such as fears of high costs for farmers and high food prices for consumers. This in turn has threatened the peoples’ right to food sovereignty. Here, food sovereignty refers to the view that food is not a commodity like any other as it is fundamentally essential for life, thus the main objective of the food system is to provide food to people in a way that is just and sustainable (Foodsovereignty.org, 2019).In this blog post, I will look more closely at the relationship between mega-mergers and food sovereignty.
Five of the six leading global crop protection and seed corporations are currently involved in mega-mergers (GMWatch.org, 2019). One can already see the potential problems that this has directly on crop producers, and consumers. These mega-mergers have become very powerful due to their market shares, to the extent that they are now putting pressures on to the local farmers to lower their prices and, ultimately lowering their income. The bargaining power of these mega-mergers has impeded on food sovereignty as it has meant that many small-scale farmers have been eliminated from farming, as they are unable to earn a decent living wage.
Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, has dubbed these mergers as ‘monopoly capitalism in action’ (USA TODAY, 2019), with just three companies controlling 61% of the world’s commercial seed sales. This has been due to the concerns of drastic increases in prices for consumers, as these gigantic mergers seek to obtain higher profits and gain greater control by eliminating competition within the agribusiness.
Whilst it is important that humans have access to safe and healthy foods – mega mergers such as Dow Chemical and DuPont have been accused of producing pesticides, which have also had a negative impact on the ecosystem. This comes clear after Monsanto’s Glyphosate herbicide has been linked to ‘over 40 human diseases, including cancer’ (laprogessive.com, 2019). This clearly shows how this merger has impeded individuals’ right to health and safe foods, as well as nurturing a food system that neither respects the integrity of ecosystems, nor is compatible with nature.
A majority of third parties such as; antitrust agencies, farmers groups like La Via Campesina, and governments, have all aimed to forestall the impact of these mega-mergers through various ways. For instance, governments have introduced a patent policy, which provided the holder with a temporary monopoly on the use of a new technology, to prevent charging consumers and farmers high prices, whilst providing greater incentives to invest in R&D, and ultimately lower prices for consumers (farmprogress.com, 2019).
One has to note that antitrust and government policies alike have not always led to the mega-merger being abandoned. There are times when the merger may be able to bypass antitrust restrictions by selling plants to other firms, or by liaising with other firms to license technology to them - thus further impeding the people’s food sovereignty.