Effective Jan. 1, California farmers will be prohibited from spraying pesticides within a quarter-mile of public schools and licensed day-care centers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on school days under a rule issued by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation. Regulators say the rule is among the strictest in the country, according to The Associated Press.
At the University of Nebraska, researchers are experimenting with the agricultural landscape to see if modifications such as windbreaks or cover crops will limit pesticide drift and help bees avoid harmful exposure to the chemicals. Farmers generally plant corn and soybean seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides, which can be rubbed off of the seed during planting and land on plants visited by foraging bees, says Harvest Public Media.
In the 20 years since GMO crops were approved for cultivation, U.S. farmers have embraced them almost to exclusion of other seeds while Europe has steadily refused to let them into its fields. The New York Times says its "extensive examination" of U.S. and European farming found that genetic engineering "has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides."
The seed and ag-chemical industry "is seemingly on the precipice of a significant structural transformation," says Senate Judiciary chairman Charles Grassley in remarks written for today's hearing on consolidation in the sector. Five of the "big six" companies are involved in mergers while two Canadian companies are combining to form the world's largest fertilizer company.
Ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on consolidation in the seed and ag chemical sector, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission say they will consider the combined impact of mergers as well as the import of each deal. If they go forward, the mergers would result in three dominant companies in the sector instead of the current six.
Two of the largest seed and agricultural chemical companies of the world, Bayer and Monsanto, will combine in a deal valued at $66 billion. Monsanto chief executive Hugh Grant said the merger, in which Bayer buys Monsanto for cash, will result in "an innovation engine that pairs Bayer’s crop protection portfolio with our world-class seeds and traits and digital agriculture tools to help growers overcome the obstacles of tomorrow."
The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission ought to collaborate in their review of two major mergers that affect the seed and ag chemical supply, said Senate Judiciary chairman Charles Grassley in a letter to regulators. "It is important that these transactions are not reviewed in isolation," wrote Grassley, noting that different regulators are handling each of the mergers, Dow-DuPont and ChemChina-Syngenta.
Bayer upped its bid to buy Monsanto to $65 billion in a move to create the world’s largest supplier of crop seeds and chemicals, says The Wall Street Journal. The proposed merger is part of a wave of consolidation in the seed and agricultural chemical industry, including the Dow-DuPont merger and the purchase of Syngenta by state-owned ChemChina.
Senate Judiciary chairman Charles Grassley is sponsoring a bill to make USDA a permanent member of the U.S. panel that decides if foreign purchases of U.S. companies impinge on national security. "This bill will raise the stature of agriculture ... so we don't make the mistake of selling too much control of our food supply to foreign countries," Grassley told reporters.
The Environmental Protection Agency would have to review all chemicals before they hit the market, taking into account their environmental and health effects, under a long-sought revision of the Toxic Substances Control Act approved by the Senate last week.