By Val Reynoso
Monsanto is an agrochemical and agricultural biotech company established in the US that is a large producer of GMO crops, with corn as its main GMO crop. Monsanto was bought by Bayer, a German multinational pharmaceutical company, in late 2016 for $63 billion dollars and the deal was approved in early 2018 by the European Union and the US.
This merging of Monsanto-Bayer, along with Monsanto’s patent of their kernels, have resulted in the rise of a near monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer in the agricultural industry and the demise of smaller farmers and companies.
Prior to its merging with Bayer, Monsanto has a history of suing small farmers and enforcing usage of Roundup herbicide in the agricultural industry, tactics through which it increased its position as a mega-corporation. Towards the end of 2012, Monsanto’s profits approximately doubled to a total revenue of $2.94 billion as a result of the rising price of Roundup, market hegemony in the US, and especially expanding markets in Latin America. Moreover, Monsanto eliminated competition from smaller farmers in US industries through the exploitation of Monsanto’s patent on transgenic corn, soybean and cotton. Monsanto was under investigation by the US Department of Justice until the end of 2012 due to its violation of anti- trust laws by engaging in activities that limit competition with other biotech companies.
Likewise, Monsanto had filed 144 lawsuits against family farmers and settled 700 cases out of court between 1997 and 2010. Those subject to Monsanto’s lawsuits include farmers who used Monsanto seed and violated the licensing agreement and farmers whose seeds were contaminated with Monsanto GMOs without their knowledge. The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v Monsanto was a case that dealt with the farmers who unknowingly had contaminated seeds that would then be used by Monsanto as a pretext to sue them. OSGATA et al v Monsanto represented 31 farms and farmers, 13 seed businesses and 31 agricultural organizations that represented over 300,000 people and 4,500 farms or farmers. A declaratory judgement was requested by plaintiffs in order to guarantee that Monsanto did not have the right to sue the plaintiffs for patent infringement.
OSGATA, having stated that many small farmers have found their efforts to grow specific crops futile, is indicative of the progressing monopolization caused by Monsanto’s pursuit of patent infringement lawsuits. Despite these efforts, federal courts still have a history of defending the right of Monsanto to capitalize off of a patenting system that decimates the market, resulting in further abuse of this action by the mega-corporation.
An example of this is the Farmer Assurance Provision of the 2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, which individuals such as farmers who were sued by Monsanto call the “Monsanto Protection Act” due to the protection it provides Monsanto and its affiliates from lawsuits.
Another factor that is weighed into the expanding hegemony of Monsanto is their potential development of its form of a marijuana seedstock, following the legalization of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana in numerous states, since marijuana cultivation has become a significant industry. Monsanto has invested millions of dollars in RNAi technology, which would be used to manipulate characteristics such as the color of a plant or to make a plant digestible to insects, as well as to make more potent marijuana plants through this genetic modification.
The merging of Monsanto-Bayer represents the gradual development of a monopoly. A monopoly refers to a corporation or other entity that dominates a sector or industry. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a corporation has a monopoly when it significantly restricts competition through its market power and gained that position through improper conduct.
In 2016, Liam Condon, the head of Bayer’s crop science division, stated that Bayer will become the sole shareholder of Monsanto. He furthered that the joint mega-corporation had to continue independent operations for a two-month period in 2016 as Bayer sold some parts of its business to the chemical company BASP. Following that time period was when Bayer was able to access more confidential information about the business operations of Monsanto, which Condon stated had to be done before changes such as dropping the Monsanto name could be made. Condon also elaborated that Bayer had estimated that it could realize $1.2 billion in “synergies” from the merger within four years, with $200 million of this quantity stemming from project sales and $1 billion linked to overlapping infrastructural costs.
Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.