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Leonid Bershidsky

Why the EU Approved Bayer-Monsanto

Even its activist head of antitrust won't stand in the way of creating European companies that can compete on the global stage.
Seeds of competition.

Seeds of competition.

Photographer: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The European Union's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has a reputation as something of an activist because of her willingness to take on U.S. tech giants. And yet she has approved what is, from a leftist activist point of view, a particularly evil deal, Germany-based Bayer's acquisition of U.S.-based Monsanto.

The $66 billion deal creates an incredible concentration in the seed and pesticide markets. If it's approved in the U.S., too, the three biggest companies in this market -- Bayer-Monsanto, ChemChina (which acquired Swiss-based Syngenta last year) and DowDuPont (the product of the two U.S. companies' 2017 merger) will together control 61 percent of it. The same firms plus German-based BASF own more than 70 percent of the pesticide market. In Europe, and in Germany in particular, a powerful lobby of civil society groups has pushed hard against the deal, saying it would concentrate too much power over the global food supply in the hands of a few giant corporations. U.S. activists also weighed in, asking Vestager to reject the "merger from hell."