A parliamentary session in Germany clearly highlighted the backlash to Bayer’s proposed buy of Monsanto as a debate Wednesday in the lower house of parliament, called by the opposition Green Party, showed deep resistance to Bayer buying a U.S. company that many Germans view as a champion of genetically modified crops and a weedkiller they believe might cause cancer.
Eight of the 12 lawmakers who spoke, including parliamentarians from within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, cast doubt on the acquisition. “More than 70% of Germans say they do not want genetically modified food on their plates, but that’s exactly part of the strategy of this merger,” said Katharina Droege, a legislator from the Greens. She warned of “massive negative consequences” for consumers and called on regulators to block the takeover.
Lawmakers have no legislative authority to stop the deal. The deal faces antitrust reviews in some 30 jurisdictions worldwide.
The opposition was bipartisan in Germany as three Social Democrats from the governing alliance crossed the aisle to join opposition Greens and Left Party lawmakers to raise antitrust and environmental concerns. One lawmaker from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Hermann Faerber, a farmer, also voiced skepticism. Faerber said that excessive consolidation among suppliers will put pressure on German growers who are already facing mergers among the food companies that are their customers. “The simple German farmer will be caught more and more between two millstones,” Faerber said.
But in Merkel’s government, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt told Mittelbayerische Zeitung on Tuesday that the deal holds “great potential” for digital technology and innovation. “I have the firm expectation that Bayer will transfer its sustainability strategy to the new parts of the company,” Schmidt said.
In the Bundestag on Wednesday, four lawmakers — all from Merkel’s CDU-led bloc — either sided with Bayer or called on legislators to wait for an assessment from the European Union’s antitrust commission.