Bayer makes deal with GMO giant Monsanto
Bayer announced this month that it plans to purchase Monsanto, the controversial chemical corporation that has been sued around the world over its products and practices. Nowadays, Bayer has a more consumer-friendly corporate reputation, but it too has a checkered past.
According to Vox, if regulators approve the $66 billion deal, the merger would create the largest agribusiness giant in the world, “selling 29 percent of the world’s seeds and 24 percent of its pesticides.”
Selling nearly a third of the world’s seeds actually means owning a huge portion of the seed stock on the planet. And, Monsanto has spent decades genetically modifying seeds to make them compatible with its chemical pesticides and herbicides, as with Roundup-ready corn.
In the U.S., citizens have been waging major campaigns to try to get GMO products labeled and/or to prevent the use of GMO crops in their communities. These efforts have been attacked by Monsanto and other chemical corporations, which have worked to defeat citizen democracy through subterfuge—as with the deceptive ads that beat back California’s proposition on GMO labeling and with a “preemption” bill in Oregon to trump local ballot measures that passed overwhelmingly in two Oregon counties that banned GMO crops.
That preemption bill was similar to other anti-local democracy measures peddled by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
From fracking bans to minimum wage and GMO labeling, ALEC and its politicians have successfully driven preemption efforts with its “model” legislation throughout different parts of the country at the behest of giant corporations.
An Oregonian who leads a group with ties to Monsanto claimed he authored the bill, but as Lisa Arkin of the Pesticide Action Network North America noted both the Oregon bill and the ALEC bill share the same name and have the same core operative language and effect: “A local government may not enact or enforce a . . . measure, including but not limited to an ordinance, regulation, control area, or quarantine, to inhibit or prevent the production or use of agricultural seed, flower seed . . . or vegetable seed or products of agricultural seed, flower seed . . . or vegetable seed.”
After the Oregon bill was introduced in 2013, it was taken to ALEC’s 40th anniversary meeting in Chicago, as the”Preemption of Local Agricultural Laws Act,” which is known as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” by its foes.
At the Agriculture Subcommittee meeting of ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force–which was co-chaired by “CropLife America,” a trade group for the industry–corporate lobbyists and politicians voted to make that bill a new ALEC “model” to push across the country. It also passed to become binding law in Oregon, as CMD’s Rebekah Wilce documented this in her June 2014 story, “Oregon’s GMO Sellout.”
“All six of the world’s biggest pesticide and GMO companies—BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta—donated $455,000 to the effort to overturn the ballot initiative….[I]t was “more than eight times more” than any other county ballot measure has ever received…. [Oregon’s Willamette Valley grows a] majority of the sugar beet seed for the country, and as of 2010, 95 percent of sugar beets grown in the United States are GMOs engineered to be resistant to heavy applications of Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate…. [So local citizens] filed an initiative that ‘establishes certain rights to a local food system while banning GMO agriculture,’ according to attorney Ann Kneeland…. The initiative, she says, would ‘prevent corporations from eviscerating local law-making.’ Their commercial rights should not trump ‘the community’s right to protect residents’ health, safety, and welfare,’ she says. [But] not every state has bowed to Monsanto and GMOs. In April , Vermont passed a law requiring the labeling of GMOs. It marked a huge victory….”
The connection to ALEC in all this is perhaps unsurprising given that both Monsanto and Bayer have been financial supporters of ALEC over the years, with Monsanto providing major funding and Bayer sending more than a half-dozen lobbyists to ALEC meetings to advance its legislative agenda among pliable ALEC politicians.
Monsanto is a known funder of ALEC and Bayer previously sat on ALEC’s corporate “Private Enterprise” Board, where the company’s VP of Public Policy and State Government Affairs served as Treasurer. Bayer has also been listed as the ALEC State corporate co-chair of Massachusetts, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas.