Chefs join MEPs in opposing Bayer-Monsanto merger

Some of France's best-known chefs have spoken out against the Bayer-Monsanto merger. [Hotel de la Paix Genève/Flickr]

A group of MEPs has asked the Commission to examine the Bayer-Monsanto merger, and some of France’s best-known chefs have written an open letter condemning the invasion of the food chain by the agrochemical industry. EURACTIV France reports.

A group of 55 MEPs yesterday (22 September) sent a letter to the European Commission, expressing their concern over the fusion of agricultural and chemical giants Bayer and Monsanto. Written by Green MEP Michèle Rivasi, the letter was co-signed by 54 of her colleagues, primarily from the European Parliament’s left-wing groups (Greens/EFA, S&D, GUE/NGL).

In it, the lawmakers urged the European executive’s DG Competition to address the subject quickly, if only because the new super-corporation’s €23 billion revenue would so far exceed the €5bn threshold for Commission scrutiny. The company’s European revenue is also well above €250 million, and Bayer and Monsanto are both big players on the same pesticides and seeds markets.

30% of the global seeds market

Using the findings of a 2013 study by the American Centre for Food Safety, which concluded that food prices would inevitably rise if the merger went ahead, the MEPs wrote that the fusion of the two industry giants would also hand Bayer control over 30% of the world’s seeds and 24% of the global pesticides market.

“Since more and more European citizens are becoming aware that it is now urgent to shift towards a sustainable agricultural model, this takeover will go against their will,” they wrote.

Neither Bayer nor Monsanto responded to’s request for comment.

In June, the Commission had already promised the German Green MEPs Sven Giegold and Martin Häusling that the merger would be investigated.

Questioned on the subject in an interview for EURACTIV France, the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, said the level of corporate concentration in the so-called “crop protection” sector had increased.

“Agriculture is for everyone, so it’s a very important topic. We have noticed a deep concentration in what is called plant protection products. For R&D, it’s the same thing. We have to keep that in mind,” the Commissioner said.

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Chefs strike back

News of the merger between Germany’s Bayer and America’s Monsanto also created a big stir in some of France’s best-known kitchens. Many of the country’s great chefs, including Olivier Roellinger of Cancale, Yannick Alléno of the Parisian restaurant the Pavillon Ledoyen, and the Bras brothers, who run a famous restaurant in Laguiole, in the Auvergne, have spoken out on the potential consequences of this concentration of agricultural companies with such control over the food chain.

In an open letter “against the invasion of agrochemistry on our plates”, the chefs called the merger “a threat to our plates, but […] also a source of concern for the farmers and producers who see their freedom to plant and cultivate such and such a seed being limited”. They added that “tomorrow, due to GMOs, Roundup, and the different chemical products coming from factories, crop diversity will no longer exist”.

Several petitions have already been launched calling for the merger to be stopped, one of which has collected more than half a million signatures.

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