Introduction

In the past two years alone, three major corporate mergers have begun to reshape what was an already concentrated international market for agricultural chemicals, seeds, and fertilizers. If the mergers gain approval from their relevant regulatory agencies, these six multinational corporations would fold into three (Dow-DuPont, Bayer-Monsanto, and ChemChina-Syngenta), and have a profound impact on the future of global agriculture. The mergers would drastically reduce competition in the areas of crop protection, seeds, and petrochemicals; further consolidate the agrochemical market; reduce procompetitive research and development (R&D) collaborations; and, most urgently, pose a critical danger to ecosystem sustainability and exacerbate the global climate crisis.1

In the first case, in September 2016, the German multinational life sciences, pharmaceutical, and chemical company Bayer bought out Monsanto, the US multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology conglomerate known for producing genetically modified (GM) seeds. On March 21, 2018, Bayer won antitrust approval by the European Union’s European Commission for its $62.5 billion bid for Monsanto, and on May 29, the US Justice Department approved the acquisition,2 with the companies’ joint assets now amounting to $87.95 billion, and a total combined revenue of $55.84 billion.3

In the second case, in April 2017, DuPont, the US chemicals company that works in agricultural, advanced materials, electronics, and bio-based industries, merged with Dow Chemical, the US multinational chemical conglomerate developing products for agricultural, automotive, construction, consumer, electronics, packaging, and other industrial markets. In April 2017, the European Commission conditionally approved the $130 billion merger between the two US companies.4 The two companies will have combined assets of $121.79 billion, and a total revenue of $63.25 billion.5

In the third case, the Chinese state-owned chemical and seed company ChemChina purchased Syngenta, the Swiss agricultural company which produces seeds and agrochemicals. In April 2017, the $43 billion merger won US antitrust approval, though it remains contingent on approval from China, Europe, India, and Mexico. Their joint assets would amount to $142.4 billion, with a $70.67 billion total revenue if it receives final approval.7

Altogether, the combined assets across the three new companies would amount to $352.14 billion and their combined total revenue would be $189.76 billion. These deals alone will place as much as 70 percent of the agrochemical industry and over 60 percent of commercial seeds in the hands of only three companies.8

These mergers are emblematic of rampant market concentration across a number of global agricultural input industries. Between 1994 and 2013, the four firms (BASF, Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont, and ChemChina-Syngenta) combined market share jumped from 21.1 percent to 44 percent in crop seed and biotechnology; from 28.5 percent to 62 percent in agrochemicals; from 28.1 percent to 56 percent in farm machinery; and from 32.4 percent to 55 percent in animal health.9