German company Bayer just acquired American company Monsanto for $66 billion.
Cash. That makes it the biggest deal ever in the history of blah blah blah, who gives a shit, are we right?
If you're anything like us, your brain turns off when you hear numbers that big being transferred from one giant group of white guys to another. And traditionally, that's exactly the way giant groups of white guys want it. Especially this one. See, there's reason to believe this particular group of rich white guys shouldn't be trusted with the awesome power they'd have after combining.
The new, combined company would sell 29 percent of the world's seeds and 24 percent of its pesticides. Once combined, their revenue would be $67.11 billion, which would make them the 70th-largest economy in the world, which means they're larger than 120 countries, including Croatia, Libya, and Bolivia. Of course, that slightly undersells their power, since Croatia doesn't control a major part of America's food supply. Croatia also didn't supply the United States with Agent Orange during the Vietnam War or supply the Nazis with Zyklon B gas during World War II.
Together, Monsanto and Bayer have the kind of resume that makes the Umbrella Corporation look like Ben & Jerry's. For starters, Bayer first launched to mega-corporate-hood when it patented and started selling aspirin and heroin. Here's an ad they published urging parents to give their young children straight-up horse. For their coughing.
And Bayer didn't stop the innovation train at Drugging Children Station. They also got into the profitable business of poisoning vermin. IG Farben, Bayer's parent company until it was broken up after the war, bought a firm that invented the cyanide-based pesticide Zyklon B. Unfortunately for, just, everyone, the Nazi definition of "vermin" covered "everyone who isn't Aryan as fuck, especially Jews," and Zyklon B became a major killing instrument of the Holocaust. Bayer apologized for their role in the Holocaust in 1995, and then four years later, a lawsuit was brought alleging that camp inmates were injected with diseases as part of Bayer clinical trials.
While we're in the 1940s, it's probably worth pointing out that Monsanto played a critical role in building the atom bomb. To be specific, they helped make the trigger. And during the Vietnam War, they helped manufacture Agent Orange for the U.S. government. Their website emphatically reminds us that eight other companies also produced Agent Orange, and besides it's probably not that bad anyway, you guys.
Monsanto's buck-passing there is pretty egregious, considering the VA is NOT famous for giving away money and readily admits that a ton of health problems among Vietnam veterans can be traced to Agent Orange. Today, the biggest claim against Monsanto is that 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide due to the company's expensive seeds and pesticides driving them to bankruptcy and making them ill.
Of course, the actual story is much more complicated. Monsanto is one part of a decades-long cycle of industrialization in farming and wildly climbing cotton demand that's screwed over millions of poor Indian farmers, several hundred thousand of whom have killed themselves. Monsanto's played a role in those deaths, but statistically, so have you and your love of blue jeans.
Still, the fact that Monsanto is one half of this aggressive attempt to corner an entire industry is more than a little unnerving. Their strategy has always been to cleverly lock down entire supply-and-demand chains and then beat said supply chain about the head and neck within an inch of the law. After spending the '70s as a chemical company (see Agent Orange, Vietnam), they became the largest seller of seeds in the world by genetically engineering a seed that was resistant to their own chemicals. In other words, they made a chemical that killed all the plants, and then they made a plant that couldn't be killed by their chemical. Thanks to supervillainous moves like trademarking corn seeds and suing people who grew corn from their seeds without permission, Monsanto became a global power. And now they're merging with another global power to conquer untold supply chains.
Who knows what virtuous circles they might form together.
Let us pitch you a sitcom ...
Some people in entertainment don't even bother trying to come up with fresh ideas.
History is full of horribly depressing moments.