April 4, 2017

“Pesticides’ Lives Matter”, Says the European Government



“Pesticides are products that matter—to farmers, consumers, and the environment. We need effective competition in this sector so companies are pushed to develop products that are ever safer for people and better for the environment,” says Margrethe Vestager, the EC commissioner in charge of competition policy.

That’s the industry’s American Chemical Society quoting the European central government’s competition czar. The European Commission has given its approval to the pending Dow-DuPont merger, contingent on DuPont divesting several holdings including its pesticides R&D division. The reason they give is that they think combining the Dow and DuPont R&D divisions would result in lower quantity and quality of research and development.
Pesticides invariably become ever more harmful to people and the environment, but the EC reads from Orwell’s playbook.
As we see, the Poisoner ideology and the pesticide mandate of regulators is so normative that antitrust regulators publicly avow that they are motivated by a mandate to ensure maximal research and development of poisons toward maximal usage. Here the regulator is engaging in pro-corporate propaganda, promising the public that agrochemical sector consolidation will result in better, less toxic poisons. This is a premeditated lie, since the inertia of corporate industrial agriculture is exclusively toward ever more toxic poisons in ever greater amounts.
This is an example of the corporate-technocratic regulator template in action. As per (1) the corporate project is normative. As per (2) the antitrust regulator makes a show of ordering sham concessions from the corporation. As per (3) the regulator then turns corporate propagandist and assures the public that the government has acted in the public interest, that the corporate project now will proceed in a benevolent way, and that the people therefore should tend to their private concerns and go to sleep.
Of course the public rationale here is idiotic. The whole point of consolidation such as the Dow-DuPont combination is that research and development has run out of road and the oligopoly needs to self-cannibalize. As a rule mergers among oligopolists are the sign of a superannuated, calcifying, decadent sector. It means companies are running out of ideas, losing confidence in the sector and in themselves. It’s the most extreme version of buying your ideas, patents, and products rather than being an innovator and entrepreneur who develops these yourself. Dow and DuPont believe they’re reaching dead ends and each needs to buy what the other has. Dow needs Pioneer seed germplasm, DuPont needs Dow’s pesticide lines and genetic engineering expertise and patents. When the antitrust regulator orders DuPont to divest its pesticide R&D and some pesticide lines, this merely is throwing the company into the briar patch.
The real character of the pesticide/GMO sector is that it is antiquated, backward, an economic and innovation bottleneck, shoddy, tawdry. This is borne out by one consistent thread which runs through all the sector consolidation events. Monsanto’s contractions, Monsanto’s proposals to Syngenta, the Dow/DuPont merger: All involve cutting research and development spending. In other words the sector has reached the point where it thinks more in terms of stock buybacks and scrounging whatever technology and patents it can buy rather than developing anything on its own. To some extent this is inherent to any big corporation and any oligopoly sector. But it’s especially congenital to the agrochemical sector, which was always based on accelerating planned obsolescence toward its inevitable culmination in the complete exhaustion and obsolescence of the entire paradigm.
Therefore research and development always is a target for down-sizing in a case like this. If continued R&D opportunities existed, that would be an incentive against merging in the first place.
Of course the industry’s flack who authored the piece has to tout such a merger as a pro-innovative step. But in truth the only innovation in this case is toward preservation of corporate power. For the agrochemical cartel, wracked by such bad fundamentals, where the sector’s inertia is becoming less powerful, more diffuse and centrifugal, preserving power now means consolidation.
Meanwhile India’s Competition Commission is making a different public sound. It “is of prima facie opinion” that the merger will hurt competition and announces it will seek public comment and demand more public transparency from Dow and DuPont about their plans.
India’s regulators in recent years have shown more willingness to hinder Western corporate projects, especially where it comes to seed prices and corporate taxation on seeds. The “nationalist” Modi government looks somewhat less like the US poodle of previous Indian central governments and more like China and Russia in being leery of Western corporate domination of agriculture and food. I remain skeptical that any of these governments are in any way anti-GMO, the way some elements of the Modi coalition claim to be, but at any rate they seem determined to reduce the global dominion of Western corporations like Monsanto.
At least in the case of China, this certainly is because they plan to build their own competing GM/pesticide cartel. Indeed the most pivotal of the ongoing mergers may be that of the state’s ChemChina with Syngenta.
But as I say in those pieces, China looks to be getting into the GMO/pesticide market at its peak, and would do much better to convert to agroecology. But of course power-driven insanity is no monopoly of the West, and most of the non-Western world also will insist on doing everything the hardest, most destructive, most self-destructive way possible.

1 Comment

  1. […] the regulatory template I’ve discussed dozens of times. For recent discussions see here, here, and here.   And then this strain of the technocratic religion goes hand in hand with the […]

    Pingback by Destinies: Dependent and Independent of Corporate Domination | Volatility — April 20, 2017 @ 8:03 am

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