The proposed merger between US chemical giant and its German counterpart Bayer, otherwise known as the “marriage made in hell”, is slowly but inexorably heading towards completion.
It has not, however, been without its problems. The proposed merger has had to negotiate several anti-trust and anti-monopoly regulations in various global markets before it can proceed. Last month, for example, the European Union only gave the $62.5 billion deal its final approval after Bayer agreed to divest itself of some of its existing assets.
In particular, to address the EU regulators’ objections, Bayer has agreed to sell its seed business to BASF, another German chemical giant. The deal is worth a reported €5.9 million.
Currently, nearly three quarters of the world’s seed market is owned by just three huge global giants, so can this divestment be regarded as a positive development?
Seeds are the very stuff of life. They are way too important to our future to give any person, company or group the power of control over their distribution and availability.
Like Monsanto and Bayer, BASF has skeletons in its corporate closet that leave questions about its ethical suitability for the role of guardian over a significant proportion of the world’s seeds.
Monsanto’s chequered past includes Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs (all long since banned) and the weedkiller Roundup (described as “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organisation). Bayer was connected to the manufacture of the gas used to murder Jewish people in Nazi concentration camps and was also involved in a contaminated blood scandal which led to thousands of haemophilia patients contracting Aids.
BASF is the result of several mergers, and one of its predecessor companies was a financial backer to the German nazi party in the 1930s, which was also involved in the manufacture of the poison gas used during the Holocaust. The gas concerned, Zyklon B, which claimed over a million lives, started life as a cyanide-based pesticide. Pesticides remain an important element of BASF’s portfolio.
The enforced sale of Bayer’s seed business to BASF should give us absolutely no cause to relax. Most of the world’s seeds businesses will continue to remain in the hands of just a few enormous global corporations, all of which have a shameful record when it comes to protecting and promoting human life and the environment.
This hearty vegan dish is a marriage of old and new season flavours.
Wild garlic is in its pomp in the UK right now, a culinary seasonal treat presaging the coming better weather and bountiful new produce to come. Kale, on the other hand, has withstood everything the winter has thrown at it and is still, just about, standing.
To make this dish I’ve used the last of my home-grown cavalo nero or Italian black kale, but any other type of kale would be fine, as would chard or spinach.
wild garlic gnocchi with kale
75 g kale leaves, tough stems removed, shredded
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
juice of half a lemon
for the gnocchi
450 g organic potatoes, unpeeled
60 g wild garlic, washed
100 g organic plain flour
1 tsp sea salt
1. First, make the gnocchi. Put the unpeeled potatoes in a pan and cover with water. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for a further 20 minutes or until tender through to the middle when pierced with a sharp knife or skewer. Drain and leave to cool.
2. Bring a separate, small pan of water to the boil. Drop in the wild garlic leaves and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of ice-cold water to arrest the cooking process. Drain and squeeze out excess moisture then chop the wild garlic finely.
3. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, gently remove the peel. It should come away easily. Convert the potatoes to a smooth mash in mixing bowl, using a ricer or masher. Add the chopped wild garlic, the sea salt and the flour. Mix together until you have a firm dough.
4. Divide the gnocchi dough into two on a lightly floured board. Take one of the pieces and gently roll it into a long sausage shape about 1-2 cm in diameter, dusting extra flour on the board as necessary to prevent the dough sticking. Cut this sausage into pieces approximately 2 cm in length. Gently roll each piece over a gnocchi paddle, or under the tines of a fork, to create a lined indentation and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat the same process with the remaining gnocchi dough.
5. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Gently add the gnocchi to the water and give the water a gentle swirl. The gnocchi will quite soon rise to the surface. At this point cook them for a further ten seconds only, then remove with a slotted spoon. Place onto kitchen paper to drain.
6. Pour the olive oil into a pan and place over a high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the gnocchi and toss it in the oil for 3-4 minutes until it begins to colour and crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi from the pan and put to one side. Now add the chopped kale to the pan and toss in the oil (add a touch more oil if necessary). After 3-4 minutes, or as soon as the kale has become tender and started to catch, stir in the salt and lemon juice, followed by the fried gnocchi. Cook for a further two minutes then remove from the heat and serve immediately, drizzling any remains juices from the pan over the top.