The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

A Poisonous Merger

Jun 6, 2016

The German chemical corporation Bayer wants to buy its American counterpart Monsanto for 63 billion dollars.

Bayer makes aspirin and many other medicines, but also pesticides, herbicides, seeds, and the gamut of chemical products for agriculture. Monsanto is known for its genetically modified seeds and its star herbicide, RoundUp. The merger of these two companies would form one of the main corporations in the chemical industry and, if other mergers follow, world agriculture will be under the thumb of just three companies.

Bayer-Monsanto can supply an herbicide which “cleans” the earth and kills everything; a seed genetically adapted to this herbicide which will sprout despite the poison; and the fertilizer needed to nourish the plant in this impoverished soil. And of course this seed renders the plant sterile, so that farmers must then buy seeds each year.... This type of agriculture is used for enormous farms that produce basic commodities for the world market, a market where the needs of the population count for less than the ups and downs of speculation.

The immediate consequences of agriculture aided by Monsanto or Bayer are known: poisoned farm workers and consumers, the death of bees that pollinate old varieties of crops, the impoverishment of the soil and the reduction of arable land. The long term consequences could turn out to be even more catastrophic.

In their defense, the agro-chemical capitalists invoke the need for ever-growing production and productivity. It is certainly true that agricultural production must meet the needs of the world population. It would be stupid to give up the gains of agricultural science, including chemistry and genetics. But while Bayer and Monsanto have demonstrated their capacity to make profits grow, they have not proven their capacity to meet humanity’s needs. Hunger and famines persist, direct consequences of the capitalist market.

Many campaigns have been launched against poisoners like Bayer, Monsanto, and the others. Some have called for a ban on their toxic products after dozens of years of their use, and others have called for these companies to compensate people they have poisoned. This is fine, but it only scratches the surface of the damage they have done. The chemical industry doesn’t just produce medicine and fertilizer. It also produces military poison gas, the gas used in the extermination camps, made by Bayer’s ancestor, and Agent Orange from the Vietnam War, made by Monsanto. Who knows what else they make today? The chemical industry’s power is reinforced by consolidation, its fusion with the big banks, and the governments which serve it. It will not be checked by simple protests. There is only one way to stop its ravages: social revolution.