View from the fence

Social, environmental and economic issues surrounding GM foods, and the latest news

Genetically modified maize crop USA agriculture

Bad news in business and in Bangalore

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I had two pieces of bad news when I turned my phone on yesterday morning  (not counting Trump bad news – I’ve become immune to that or mornings would be too depressing). A Whatsapp chat with my school friends explained that the violence in Bangalore had environmental causes, and a chat with my PhD friends informed me that Bayer had bought Monsanto.

In Bangalore, 15,000 security forces are currently trying to keep peace, following an uprising about a 125-yr water dispute. Bangalore is facing water shortages, and the protestors believe that the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu takes more that its fair share water from the Cauvery River. The Government disagrees, and has ordered the state of Karnataka (home to Bangalore) to release more water.

Combined with monsoon failure (yes, climate change has been implicated), this leaves both states with severe water shortages. It also comes in the wake of some other dubious water management, including drainage of lakes for golf courses, playgrounds and the like.

The other news, about Bayer and Monsanto, has attracted the attention of regulators, and as a result the deal may not go through. Both CEOs claim not to be concerned, stating that there is ‘very little overlap between the companies’ (Monsanto is more focussed on seeds and Bayer on chemicals).

The European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, says she will look at potential impact on seed prices and on crop development.

It’s a big issue, as take-overs are the name of the game in agri-businesses at the moment. It is the third recent ‘megadeal’ and would reduce the Big Six of global agribusiness to the Big Four, placing 70% of the global pesticide market under just three companies. So watch this space…

The State of Nature report the day before had left me in the mood for looking for the good in the bad. The good news is that I have must have interesting friends for these to be topics of discussion, and also that maybe, just maybe, we can learn from Bangalore that lakes are more valuable than bus stands and short-term gains can have long-term consequences.

And today there’s good news: Science has a special issue on Plant Translational biology. Lots of GM discussion in there.

UPDATE 3 October: an interesting take here, with a particularly interesting point that Monsanto’s revenue is similar to that of the organic chain Whole Foods.

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Author: Rebecca Nesbit

I am author of a popular science book 'Is that Fish in your Tomato?' exploring the fact and fiction of GM crops. In my work and leisure so far, I have trained bees to detect explosives, used a radar to study butterflies for my PhD, written a novel, taken the train from London to China, organised Biology Week, sold science jewellery on Etsy, and traveled to four continents with Nobel Laureates. Best off all, I've made lots of friends whose support I very much appreciate. Thank you! Please visit my website: http://rebeccanesbit.com/

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