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Groups call for investigation of ag chem companies

They're concerned about risk to economy and environment.

Nearly 325 advocacy groups have signed a letter urging the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into the proposed mergers of the Dow Chemical with DuPont, Monsanto with Bayer AG and Syngenta with ChemChina.

The groups urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to enjoin the mergers on grounds that they will drive up food and farming costs, threaten global food security, curtain innovation, threaten the health of farmworkers and limit farmer choice.

“Conglomerates of such massive scale, breadth and reach, such as those proposed by these mergers, pose a real risk to our economy, to our agricultural sector, to public health, to food security, to the environment and to the general health of the agricultural and food business climate. Dominance of this magnitude can pose both domestic and international consequences that would be irreversible, once set in motion," the letter reads.

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"Farmers across the country know that these mergers will result in fewer options and higher prices for the inputs we rely on. Already, a third of what a farmer makes for a corn harvest goes to pay for the seed alone; in the end there is nothing left for the farm family. We’ve seen what happens when too few companies control too much of the market, and these mergers would only make a bad situation worse,” said Mike Weaver, president, Organization for Competitive Markets.

"The decline in the quality of plant breeding for conventional varieties and the corresponding increase in the use of crop chemicals will continue, as the merged companies narrow their interests yet further to a few number of products likely to bring in the greatest profit for those biotech companies,"said Aaron Lehman, a grain farmer and president of Iowa Farmers Union.

“These mergers will hurt honey bees and native pollinators by making it harder for farmers to secure diverse seeds that are not coated in bee-killing pesticides or engineered to withstand multiple doses of herbicide applications,” said Michele Colopy, program director, Pollinator Stewardship Council, a national group that representing beekeepers and beekeeping organizations.

“These proposed mergers only put more power and influence on the side of agribusiness, which contributes to but does nothing to pay for the health impacts on families of the chemicals they produce," said Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida. "People should not pay with their health and lives for the profits of these mega-corporations.”

"The concentrated corporate control of seed markets threatens farmers’ traditional practices of developing, saving and exchanging locally-adapted seed in the United States and around the world, practices that support the biological diversity and ecological resilience critical to addressing local and global food needs," said farmer Denise O'Brien, founder of Women's Food and Agriculture Network and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America board vice-president.

´┐╝If all three deals were to close, the newly created companies would control nearly 70% of the world’s pesticide market, more than 61% of commercial seed sales and 80% of the U.S. corn-seed market.

Source: Organization for Competitive Markets

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