Monsanto-DPL merger condemned (3/6/2007)


Contact: Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety: (202) 547-9359 x14; John Bianchi, Goodman Media International: (212) 576-2700, (917) 693-4290 (cell)

Merger Will Harm Farmers Through Increased Seed Prices, Reduced Choices

Monsanto's Monopoly Causing Serious Harm to U.S. Agriculture

Washington, DC - The Center for Food Safety today blasted the Dept. of Justice's (DoJ) approval of Monsanto's $1.5 billion buyout of cotton seed giant Delta and Pine Land (DPL). Monsanto holds a virtual monopoly in biotech traits deployed in genetically engineered cotton and soybeans, and is also the world's largest seed firm. Delta and Pine Land sells over half of U.S. cotton seed, and in 2004 was the world's eleventh largest seed firm. The National Black Farmers Association and the Center for Food Safety had urged DoJ to block the merger. The American Antitrust Institute and leading agricultural experts had warned DoJ the merger could seriously inhibit competition, limit choices and raise prices.

'Monsanto technology is already in 95% of biotech cotton. This merger will strengthen Monsanto's monopoly, meaning increased seed prices and reduced seed choices for American farmers,' said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety (CFS). Freese authored a report on the merger based on exhaustive analysis of USDA data that was submitted to DoJ in February of this year.

'The Department of Justice's failure to block this clearly anticompetitive merger is inexcusable,' said Joseph Mendelson, CFS Legal Director, noting that DoJ officials approved the merger despite sharp criticism from Senators on the Judiciary Committee, and that DoJ has not gone to trial to block a proposed merger since 2004.

'We often get calls from farmers being sued by Monsanto for allegedly saving the company's patented seeds. These farmers tell us that Monsanto's steep biotech fees, together with rising fuel and chemical costs, are driving them to and over the edge of bankruptcy,' added Mendelson.

CFS's report shows that cotton seed prices have risen 240% since 1995, due primarily to rising biotech fees Monsanto adds to the price of genetically engineered seeds containing its 'traits.' Over 80% of all U.S. cotton (conventional and biotech) already contains Monsanto's traits; meanwhile, the number of cheaper conventional varieties available to farmers declines every year. The report cites USDA data showing that one of five cotton farms, mostly smaller operations, went out of business from just 1997 to 2002.

The report discusses Delta and Pine Land's attempts to diversify its biotech seed offerings through recent agreements with DuPont and Syngenta, Monsanto competitors, and predicts the merger will foil DPL's pre-merger efforts to provide more seed choices to cotton farmers.

A striking graphic in the report (Appendix 6) charts Monsanto's multi-billion acquisitions of leading corn, soy, canola and vegetable seed firms over the past two decades, deals that transformed it into the world's largest seed company in 2005.

The report also explores the serious, adverse impacts Monsanto's biotech seed monopoly is having on agriculture and the environment.

'Monsanto's goal is to transform America into Roundup Nation,' said Mendelson, noting that Monsantos Roundup Ready cotton, soybeans, corn and canola, engineered for use with the company's Roundup weed killer, covered an astounding 117 million acres in 2006, an area larger than the state of California.

'Roundup use has skyrocketed since Roundup Ready crops were introduced. Excessive use of Roundup is harming soil life essential to crop health and productivity, and also breeding superweeds resistant to Roundup,' said Freese. 'One cotton expert called these Roundup-resistant weeds a threat to the cotton industry comparable to the boll weevil.'

Monsanto's biotech monopoly, strengthened by its takeover of Delta and Pine Land, is quickly leading American agriculture into a dangerous dependence on one company and its limited set of biotech traits, and poses an unprecedented threat to American agriculture,  concluded Mendelson.

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