EU: Commission approves Bayer-Monsanto merger amid concerns over environment, human health & digital farming data

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27 March 2018

The EU clears Bayer-Monsanto merger amid wide competition and environmental concerns

Author: Carlo Motta, The European Sting

[T]he European Union formally gave its approval to Germany multinational company Bayer’s $62.5 billion acquisition of US-based Monsanto... [where] the merger still needs to be cleared...

[C]ampaigners and non-governmental organizations have been voicing concerns about the impact that such an “endless” new company [...] could have... US-based online campaign group Avaaz was among the first one to criticize the EU approval. “...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..."

Friends of the Earth Europe spoke of data concerns. “The Commission decision also allows them [Bayer and Monsanto], together with BASF, to become data giants in agriculture – the ‘Facebooks of farming'”...

Slow Food president Carlo Petrini also expressed his criticism. In a letter sent last week to the European Commissioner [he] said: “We are deeply concerned by the conditions of dependence that are created by this merger. We cannot afford to have the future of food in hands of so few. Food is a human right...”

Monsanto has been targeted many times by environmentalists and campaigners for being one of the main creators of products containing glyphosate, an herbicide that has been suspected for a long time by the World Health Organization to be carcinogenic.

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21 March 2018

Statement by Commissioner Vestager on Commission decision to give conditional approval to Bayer's plans to buy Monsanto

Author: EU Commission

The Commission has today decided to give conditional approval to Bayer's plans to buy Monsanto under EU merger rules...

Some investigations, including by the US Department of Justice, are still ongoing. The Brazilian, Chinese and South African competition authorities have cleared the transaction with conditions that addressed their competition concerns...

[M]any citizens have reached out to express concerns that go beyond competition policy. For example, concerns on the risks that GMOs and glyphosate may pose for the human health and the environment. These are concerns that go to the question of what kind of society we want to live in and what kind of regulation should apply to our agriculture...

We have strict regulatory standards in the EU that protect human health and the environment...

And we will of course remain just as strict to protect these standards...

As with any part of the economy, digital technology is also changing the face of conventional agriculture. As digital agriculture and the use of big data become increasingly important, the question of who controls access to the data matters here, too. The agricultural sector is currently working on an industry Code of Conduct on data ownership and access. Last September, the Commission proposed a framework on the free flow of non-personal data in the EU, which encourages the development of such rules across sectors to facilitate data access and portability.

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19 September 2017

EU competition laws fail to take into account the effects Bayer-Monsanto merger could have on environment, public health & food security

Author: David Burrows, EU Observer

Mega-mergers in the food and farming sector have become commonplace, but EU competition laws do little to help commissioners keep check on the impact this could have on the environment, public health, and food security... 12 months ago [...] news broke of the "definitive merger agreement" between the German pharmaceuticals firm Bayer and US seed producer Monsanto. There would be "significant and lasting benefits for farmers: improved sourcing and increased convenience to higher yield, better environmental protection and sustainability", from the €55 billion ($66bn) deal, a statement said... A year on and the companies have already missed their self-imposed deadline to complete the deal, with the EU just one of 30 jurisdictions where the deal has not yet received antitrust clearance... In August, an in-depth investigation was launched by EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who cited "concerns" that competition could be reduced in the markets for pesticides, seeds and genetic traits - resulting in higher prices, lower quality, less choice, and a stagnation of innovation. [also refers to Amazon, Wholefoods, Tesco and Booker]

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