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Farmers Lament Bayer's Acquisition Of Monsanto For $66 Billion


The world's biggest producer of seeds for farmers, Monsanto, announced this morning it has agreed to be bought by Bayer, the huge, German pharmaceutical company. The deal faces a lot of regulatory hurdles. Critics say it could leave farmers all over the world dependent on just a few companies. NPR's Dan Charles met some of those farmers today in Canada.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: The farm show in Woodstock, Ontario's, a huge event - a hundred acres full of all kinds of farming tools. Monsanto is one of the biggest tent's here. Farmer Don Colcuc is standing outside it, digesting the news that this company's agreed to be swallowed by Bayer.

DON COLCUC: It's blowing my mind. I just didn't realize that this would ever occur.

CHARLES: Most of the farmers at the show buy products from both companies - genetically engineered corn and soybean seeds from Monsanto, pesticides from Bayer. In the future those products might all come from one company.

And this is only the latest deal in the seed and pesticide industry. DuPont and Dow are trying to merge. A state-owned chemical company in China is buying Syngenta, which is based in Switzerland. Here's Kelly Sharp, another farmer.

KELLY SHARP: It scares me - the consolidation. That's what scares me - and the control, right? You get so few players in the business. They pretty much dictate their price and everything about it.

CHARLES: Antitrust regulators in several countries will have to sign off on this deal. The combined company would control about 30 percent of the global seed business. Monsanto and Bayer say together they'll create new and better products. Farmer Roger Kell says that could be true.

ROGER KELL: On the positive side, they will have access to more technologies, which is what it's all about really from their point of view. And that might benefit agriculture as well.

CHARLES: And Quentin Martin, who grows genetically modified corn seed under contract to Monsanto - he wonders whether this deal will change the global debate over GMOs. Like most of the farmers here, he likes biotech crops. He's frustrated that Europe has not embraced that. But Bayer is a German company.

QUENTIN MARTIN: Now that Europe owns this stuff, will they be more inclined to embrace it? And I'm hoping the answer is yes.

CHARLES: The name Monsanto's become so controversial, he says, the best thing would be to bury it. Dan Charles, NPR News, Woodstock, Ontario. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dan Charles is NPR's food and agriculture correspondent.