“A global threat lies ahead worsened after the EU’s green light to the Bayer-Monsanto merger”, a Sting Exclusive by the President of Slow Food

Slow Food Carlo Petrini.jpg

Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food (Slow Food, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Carlo Petrini, founder and President of Slow Food, a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions and counteract the rise of fast food culture. The opinion expressed in this piece belongs strictly to the writer and does not necessarily reflect The European Sting’s one.

When a growing share of food production is in the hands of an increasingly small number of multinationals, to the detriment of small farms, food sovereignty is at risk. Many people might ask why this matters, not fully grasping the dangers involved. There’s no two ways about it: a global threat lies ahead which has recently worsened after the European Union’s green light to the Bayer-Monsanto merger.

According to La Via Campesina, food Sovereignty is peoples right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, as well as their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. But when four multinationals control around 70% of the world trade in agricultural raw materials (wheat, corn and soy, followed by sugar, palm oil and rice), and the market for seeds and pesticides is in the hands of even fewer companies, are people really in a position to make a free choice? Can farmers freely decide what to grow and consumers what food to buy?

Of course not.

Two American companies DuPont and Dow Chemical merged in September of last year, while ChemChina recently purchased the Swiss group Syngenta, and now the German companies Bayer and Monsanto have become one company with the blessing of  European institutions. This means that three multinationals hold up to 70% of the world’s agro-chemicals and up to 60% of commercial seeds.

As Friends of the Earth recently denounced «these gigantic powerful companies are not feeding the majority of people worldwide, as they would like to think, rather the opposite – threatening long-term global food security for the sake of profits. Big cash cows for Bayer and Monsanto respectively are insecticides called ‘neonicotinoids’, whose active ingredients are a main driver of the large-scale death of bees and other pollinators, and the weed-killer glyphosate, found to “probably cause cancer in humans” by the World Health Organization (WHO)».

Despite the fact that most of public opinion is increasingly concerned by the health and environmental consequences associated with the use of chemicals in agriculture and food production, despite the fact that it was clear the merger of two such large companies creates a de facto monopoly, despite the fact that the role of institutions governing us should precisely be to protect citizens and their freedom, despite all this –  the EU has allowed this merger to take place.

How could this happen? Are our institutions blind and deaf? Why were so many arguments which demonstrated the dangers of such a merger put forward by numerous civil society organizations, including Slow Food, not taken into consideration? Why was a major study from University College London’s Faculty of Laws, released on the last World Food Day, not even considered?

The authors of the report claimed that “the European Commission should be obliged to block the merger even on a narrow reading of EU competition law”. The academics also called on the European Commission to broaden its investigation of the merger to take into account the full social and environmental costs, as they are likely to lead to important risks for food security, safety, biodiversity and will impact food prices, food quality, variety and innovation.

According to Article 81 of the Treaty of Rome (now Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) anti-monopolistic provisions are expressly designed to ensure that competition within the common market is not prevented, restricted or distorted.

However, the decision to approve the merger between Bayer and Monsanto was taken in a situation already largely conditioned by an enormous concentration of power. Large multinational companies control the markets and influence governments and parliaments. Thanks again to research by Friends of the Earth Europe and the Corporate Europe Observatory, it has emerged that Bayer and Monsanto’s combined spending on declared lobbying activities in the EU for 2015 alone was €13,521,187. The real amount is likely to be much higher. Monsanto and Bayer have built a vast network of influencers to bend EU laws and safety standards in their favour.

That is the crucial point we are facing today in Europe: it is a struggle to defend democracy, so that it does not become an empty word, so that EU institutions do not lose their meaning, giving opportunities to the populists and disintegrating forces that are rising in Europe and putting our future at risk.

When the Bayer Monsanto merger was approved, I tried to base my comment on a note of hope, stating that it’s worth considering an alternative analysis of the situation: these mergers between corporate giants are also a sign of weakness, borne out of necessity to maintain profit margins by reducing operational costs. The image of the giants with clay feet came to my mind.

But how to transmit this hope to the small-scale farmers working in agriculture in Europe, who are, in myriad ways, fighting to defend biodiversity, promote native breeds, acting locally to develop healthy and clean economies?

Unlike the rest of the world, farmers in Europe are a small percentage of the population and they do not have the economic strength of multinationals. They have little influence on politics. That is why I will never tire of saying that we must strengthen the alliance between farmers and ordinary citizens, whom I call co-producers, to make the voice of the many heard… and to ensure that David prevails against Goliath.

About the author

Carlo Petrini is a journalist, author and advocate for a sustainable food system and has been working since the 1980’s to promote eco-gastronomy. He is the founder and President of Slow Food, a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions and counteract the rise of fast food culture. In May 2016, he received the appointment from the President of FAO, Graziano De Silva, as a Special Ambassador to Zero Hunger for Europe, the initiative to increase public awareness on the need to improve agriculture in Europe and ensure a sustainable food supply chain.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Cities are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. These organizations are leading the urban response.

Global Citizen-Volunteer Internships

Deal on tightening the rules to stop terrorists from using homemade explosives

UN condemns deadly attack on Burkina Faso church

Migration crisis update: mutual actions and solidarity needed as anti-migrant policies thrive

Built by a woman: supporting the dreams of mum entrepreneurs

Climate action ‘both a priority and a driver of the decade’: Guterres

Do the giant banks ‘tell’ Britain to choose a good soft Brexit and ‘remain’ or else…?

UN chief highlights action across borders for ‘stable and prosperous Eurasia’

The Commission favours the cultivation of more GMOs in Europe

Questions and Answers on issues about the digital copyright directive

Eurozone at risk of home-made deflation and recession

Sustainability, peace, security ‘best guarantee against instability’ Guterres to Security Council

Poor public health funding: a colossal risk to health inequalities

Abuse of authority provisions adopted by the Senate raise concerns over Brazil’s capacity to ensure independence of prosecutors and judges in fighting corruption

JADE at European Business Summit 2015

Sexual exploitation and abuse: latest UN quarterly update

Nigeria floods: Guterres ‘deeply saddened’ by loss of life and rising need

Should tech companies pay us for our data?

UNICEF must triple budget to combat Ebola outbreak in DR Congo; complex crisis impacting unprecedented number of children

Boosting the EU’s green recovery: Commission invests €1 billion in innovative clean technology projects

Wide-ranging reforms needed to ensure Italy’s economic recovery

Judges urge Security Council to serve interests of all UN Member States

This is how many people are forcibly displaced worldwide

These LGBTQI Davos leaders shared their advice on coming out

Belgium: Youth Forum takes legal step to ban unpaid internships

‘Multi-generational tragedy’ in Israel and Palestine demands political will for two-State solution

Primary Health Care: in a world of specializations

A Europe that protects: EU customs seized over 31 million fake goods at EU borders in 2017

Chart of the day: The internet has a language diversity problem

UN aid teams scramble to reach ‘most remote places’ cut off by Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique

Joris in Indonesia

What our leaders hide from us

China-EU Relations: Broader, Higher and Stronger

European Border and Coast Guard: 10 000-strong standing corps by 2027

Banks get trillions and the unemployed ECB’s love…

State aid: Commission adopts Temporary Framework to enable Member States to further support the economy in the COVID-19 outbreak

Here’s how to rebut the climate doom-mongers

Von der Leyen on Coronavirus Global Response: World stands united against coronavirus and will win

Ukraine jet crashes in Iran, killing 176: UN chief offers deepest condolences

UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by Ethiopia plane crash which killed 157, including at least 21 UN workers

UN celebrates books as ‘bridges across cultures’

He died so I could live: UN peacekeeper pays tribute to fallen colleague

Rising insecurity in Central Africa Republic threatens wider region, Security Council told

EU adopts rebalancing measures in reaction to US steel and aluminium tariffs

These 5 countries are home to more than half the world’s forests

Efforts to save the planet must start with the Antarctic

The status of the Code of Medical Ethics: loading

EU budget 2020: Commission focuses its proposal on jobs, growth and security

UN chief ‘deeply concerned’ by military escalation in northwest Syria

Does the sharing economy truly know how to share?

Action needed to tackle stalled social mobility

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: Cameron corroborates that Britain should remain in the EU

European Parliament approves new copyright rules for the internet

Inclusion, empowerment and equality, must be ‘at the heart of our efforts’ to ensure sustainable development, says UN chief

Traditional finance is failing millennials. Here’s how investing needs to change

It’s EU vs. Google for real: the time is now, the case is open

Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2019 is ‘climate emergency’

Budgetary Control Committee asks for stronger measures to protect EU spending

How one traumatised child survived genocide and started a movement for mental health

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s