EU approves German chemical giant Bayer's takeover of Monsanto
The European Commission has given its blessing to the €54 billion deal, despite opposition from farmers and environmental groups. The acquisition will create the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company.
A merger between German pharmaceutical giant Bayer and US agrochemical company Monsanto can go ahead — but only under strict conditions, the European Commission said on Wednesday,
"We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion euros ($7.4 billion), meet our competition concerns in full," said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the EU's anti-trust chief.
She said the Leverkusen-based congolmerate had made commitments to dispose of key subsidiaries that overlap with Monsanto.
Vestager said the EU greenlight was subject to rules that ensure that "there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets."
Monsanto accepted an offer from Bayer in September to pay €46 billion to its shareholders and assume €7.3 billion in debt, to create the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company.
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US must now rule
The proposed acquisition has since been scutinized by competition watchdogs around the globe, and still faces US regulatory approval.
In an attempt to appease EU regulators, Bayer announced in October the sale of parts of its agrochemical business to German rival BASF, in a deal worth €5.7 billion.
Earlier this month, BASF also committed to buying Bayer's vegetable seed business in a last-minute concession to Brussels.
'Merger from hell'
But the "mega-merger" has been scorned by environmentalists and other aid organizations who fear the deal gives the world's biggest manufacturers too much market power. Monsanto has long been heavily criticized for its genetically altered produce and use of the pesticide glyphosate.
Activists from Friends of Europe wrote to Vestager warning against the consequences of the takeover on the environment.
"Blocking this deeply unpopular merger would be a big win for the EU — over a million citizens have called on EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager to block this merger from hell," the activists said in a statement.
Glyphosate has been found in Ben & Jerry's ice cream samples from Europe, according to the Health Research Institute. The attested quantities could be a health risk, says the US-based Organic Consumers Association. Ben&Jerry's insists the levels of glyphosate detected "were significantly below all allowable US and European standards."
When glyphosate is used to kill weeds on fields of wheat, barley or rye, it can find its way into bread, buns, cakes, cookies or any other baked goods. That's how the herbicide ends up in your Ben & Jerry's cookie dough ice cream.
Take cornflakes and muesli. Yes, these are made from field crops that are also sprayed with a glyphosate-based weed killer like Roundup. A 2018 Environmental Working Group report titled "Breakfast With a Dose of Roundup?" noted that all but two of 45 products tested had oats with traces of glyphosate, but that 31 of these showed alarming levels exceeding its own child safety standards.
Glyphosate is also in our water. In the water? Indeed, even there! When the weed killer is used on cultivated fields, after it rains, glyphosate seeps into the groundwater, rivers and lakes. And this way, it turns up not only in our food, but also in beverages ...
... like the world's most popular chillaxing drink — beer. Several studies have shown small amounts of glyphosate in the beverage made from grains and water — although the more dangerous thing about beer may still be the alcohol content.
And whoever, at the end of this list, believes it's okay to smear some honey on what is hopefully a glyphosate-free organic roll, is likely to be unhappy. Flowers that attract bees, and that grow near fields sprayed with glyphosate, are likewise affected, and could turn your sweet hopes into something fairly bitter.
mm/rt (AFP, AP, dpa)
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