Last week’s news: German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer AG has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion. The tie-up of two of the six largest companies for agricultural chemicals and industrial seed (alongside Dupont, BASF, Dow AgroSciences and Syngenta) would result in the world’s biggest company in agricultural production. The question that arises now is: what does this mean for food sovereignty and seed sovereignty?
A conventional farm becomes habit-forming of the agricultural chemical producers and suppliers and international agricultural trade corporations (Nestlé, Unilever, Mondelez, etc.) as purchasers of their products. Especially the pesticide producers Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta have, of course, an interest that alongside of the cultivation of their plants also their pesticides must be used.
“Food sovereignty” emphasizes the access to agricultural inputs such as land, seeds and water, and emanate from the right of all people and nations to define their own agricultural and food policies. However, because of the nature of capitalist industrial agriculture there are no free lands or areas. It deprives the planet of energy and other commodities, and it impacts the climate.
Also the “seed sovereignty” suffers from this trend. The industrial agriculture does not use locally adapted varieties and does not promote it either. On the contrary: Due to the proliferation of hybrid seeds and due to property rights on seeds which prohibit the reproduction and seed exchange between farmers (in Europe the TOP 5 own half of the patents on plants) the conventional seed market is growing rapidly.
The acquisition of Monsanto is basically a 62-billion-dollar bet against a required change in agriculture, a change that argues against concentration processes within the separate sectors of feeding stuffs, livestock, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Bayer is betting that the industrialization of agriculture continues with more and more factory farms, genetic engineering and pesticides. But we do not want a mega-corporation, which has a monopoly on our food and promotes the industrialization of agriculture.
The point is rather to promote the proliferation of antique seeds and an agriculture that is not based on chemistry and mechanization but on biodiversity. This includes organic farming and permaculture. Food should be primarily produced and distributed regionally rather than exported to rich countries. Especially people who suffer hunger and malnutrition need to get access to resources such as land, water and seeds. Everyone needs to have the opportunity to feed him/herself in dignity – whether auto-productive or not.