“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.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

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

Eurogroup: IMF proposes Germany disposes

What will it take for the world’s third-largest economy to empower women?

Latest tragedy in the Mediterranean claims over 100 lives – UN refugee agency

New energy security framework will help meet growing needs in East Africa, sustainably – UN economic wing

The world is too complacent about epidemics. Here’s how to change

Parental leave: why we can’t wait a century for equal rights for women

The Sichuan Province of China presents its cultural treasure to the EU

Make progress or risk redundancy, UN chief warns world disarmament body

State of the Union 2018: The Hour of European Sovereignty

What Ghana can teach us about integrating refugees

UN appeals for international support as flood waters rise in wake of second Mozambique cyclone

‘Continuing absence’ of political solution to Israel-Palestine conflict ‘undermines and compounds’ UN efforts to end wholesale crisis

These technologies are playing a major role at the Cricket World Cup

There are now four competing visions of the internet. How should they be governed?

In tech-driven 21st century, achieving global development goals requires closing digital gender divide

Working together to end the AIDS-HIV pandemic

UN food agency begins ‘last resort’ partial withdrawal of aid to opposition-held Yemeni capital

3 ways to ensure the internet’s future is creative, collaborative and fair

We can’t tell if we’re closing the digital divide without more data

Safer products: stepping up checks and inspections to protect consumers

How transparency can help the global economy to grow

Plastic is a global problem. It’s also a global opportunity

Crowdfunding: what it is and what it may become

Do we really understand the value of independent journalism?

The Sting’s Team

OECD will follow Canadian proceedings addressing allegations of political interference in foreign bribery prosecution

UN calls for funds to ease ‘deteriorating’ humanitarian situation in Gaza and West Bank

The EU Parliament and the ECB unknowingly or unwillingly fail to protect our financial assets

Young activists do the talking as UN marks World Children’s Day

IFMSA and IPSF on the Health of Migrants and Refugees

Do the EU policies on agro-food smell?

How traditional Islamic giving can play a role in the future of aid

For video game addiction, now read official ‘gaming disorder’: World Health Organization

European Court of Justice to Google: It is #righttobeforgotten but not #righttoberemembered

Young people meet in Malta to shape the future of Europe

Britain heading to national schism on exit from EU

Essential services on verge of shutdown in Gaza as emergency fuel set to run out

An American duel in Brussels: Salesforce against Microsoft over Linkedin deal

How solar is powering the Middle East towards renewables

From violence to dialogue: as land conflicts intensify, UN boosts efforts to resolve disputes through mediation

G20 LIVE: Fact Sheet from the G20 Leaders Summit and key outcomes (G20 Antalya 2015 Summary)

Trump beats Clinton but Americans will learn the hard way that the US can’t change with an election

How drones can help rural Africa take flight

It’s time for cybersecurity to go pro bono

Reducing disaster risk is a good investment, and ‘the right thing to do’, says Guterres

Commission launches debate on more efficient decision-making in EU social policy

Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €127 million to boost EU’s largest ever humanitarian programme

€200 million to promote European agri-food products in and outside the EU

Eurozone plans return to growth

THE ROAD TO GANESHA

Barriers to healthcare: are they real?

Treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons marks first anniversary, but still lacks sufficient numbers to become law

How UN cultural treasures helped set the stage for Game of Thrones

EU-Singapore free trade deal gets green light in Trade Committee

Starbucks and FIAT again under Commission’s microscope: is Europe ready to kick multinationals out of the house?

India can soar in the robot age. This is how

UN Security Council urged to act against ‘worst-case scenario’ Syria’s war-battered Idlib

Draghi’s 2018 compromise: enough money printing to revive inflation and check euro ascent

Draghi cuts the Gordian knot of the Banking Union

EU commits €9 million in humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable families in Myanmar

More Stings?

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