Whilst the eyes of many environmentalists have been focused on the “marriage made in hell” that will result from the takeover of notorious agrochemical giant Monsanto by Bayer, two other equally alarming acts of corporate consolidation are in train.
The state owned Chinese chemical company ChemChina is in the process of swallowing up Syngenta in a $43 million deal. Last week, the proposed deal received both EU and US antitrust conditional approval.
ChemChina is a huge producer of agrochemicals (pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers etc.), as well as other non-agricultural products. Syngenta is a major manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been identified as contributing to declining bee populations. It also produces genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and is the world’s largest crop chemical producer. The company is currently defending several thousand lawsuits in the USA over the introduction of a genetically modified variety of corn destined for the Chinese market before it had received approval for import to China.
In addition to this takeover and the Bayer takeover of Monsanto, a third act of corporate consolidation is taking place through the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont, respectively the world’s third and fourth largest agrochemical manufacturers. Both companies are also major producers of genetically modified crop seeds, and both have a background in the development and manufacture of nuclear weapons.
If all three mergers and takeovers go ahead it will leave control of most of the world’s seed market and agrochemicals market in the hands of three enormous private companies. This in turn is likely to lead to higher prices and, more worryingly, reduced choice for farmers and other crop growers. Species diversity in crops provides an important natural mechanism for combatting disease. Artificially restricting the available species still further makes it more likely that a future crop failure would have a catastrophic impact.
Between them these six – soon to become three – companies already use their considerable resources to lobby governments into passing favourable legislation to enable them to dominate markets, suppress farmers’ rights and even outlaw natural seeds. They are also big employers making a huge contribution to the economies of the countries in which they are based, making it very unlikely that any of the governments in those countries would have the courage act to restrict or rein in their activities.
As a result we can expect future legislation – as well as the actual process of food production – to be embedded still deeper within a corrupt and unsustainable system of industrial agriculture.
Whilst each of these mergers is no doubt great news for shareholders, they are extremely bad news for democracy, for organic and small scale farmers and growers and for consumers.
The days are getting longer and warmer, and now the glorious new potato season is upon us. The rightly celebrated Jersey Royal potato has been available here in the UK for the past two or three weeks. The name has Protected Designation status, but in fact the same potato can be grown successfully and easily here in the UK where it goes by the slightly less territorial name International Kidney.
I’m using Jersey Royals in this recipe because I love their distinctive flavour, but feel free to use any variety of new potato in their place.
Rocket (known as aragula in the USA) is an early season salad crop with a distinctive, peppery and slightly bitter flavour. It adds bite to the lovely pesto accompanying this simple salad.
new potato salad with rocket, lemon and mint pesto
500 g organic new potatoes, washed and scrubbed
6 organic spring onions, white and green parts, sliced
45 g organic rocket
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp maple syrup
1. Place the potatoes in a large pan and cover with water. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender. Remove from the heat, drain, and set to one side to cool.
2. Place the olive oil, rocket, mint, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, pine nuts, sea salt and maple syrup in a blender and pulse until you have a paste which is fairly smooth but still retaining some texture.
3. Halve or quarter the new potatoes, depending on size, and place in a bowl with the chopped spring onion. Add four tablespoons of the rocket, lemon and mint pesto (the rest will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days and can be added to pasta or risotto). Toss all of the ingredients together before serving.