Bayer-Monsanto deal is a bet on GM crop expansion
28.11.2016 11:00 "Agro Perspectiva" (Kyiv) —
Global planting of genetically modified seeds has slipped but long-term prospects look bette.
Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann pledged to create a «global leader in agriculture» when he unveiled the company’s blockbuster takeover of Monsanto in September.
Making a success of the $66bn deal will depend in significant part on the continued expansion of the market for genetically modified seeds, which Monsanto has led since the first commercial GM crops were planted in 1996.
Yet global planting of GM crops declined slightly in 2015, after two decades of rapid growth, and there is little sign of a sustained upturn in the near future. The markets for the crops that have led GM expansion so far - maize, soyabeans, cotton and canola - are largely saturated in the countries that are politically and agriculturally hospitable to GM, and few others are poised for introduction.
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, which surveys biotech crops annually, the total area planted fell from 181.5m hectares in 2014 to 179.7m last year. Randy Hautea, ISAAA global co-ordinator, says the small decline, the first in the history of GM crops, reflects low agricultural commodity prices rather than any rejection of the technology by farmers. «We expect it to increase when crop prices improve,» he adds.
The agrochemicals and crop biotechnology consultancy Phillips McDougall says seeds worth $37.2bn were sold in 2015, of which $19.8bn were GM. The total market fell by 8 per cent from 2014, while the GM segment was down 6 per cent, adds Allister Phillips, associate director. He is predicting further small declines in the global seeds market in 2016 and 2017 as crop prices remain low.
The downturn in the agriculture industry has been a key catalyst for the wave of deals sweeping through the suppliers of farmers’ seeds and crop sprays, including Bayer’s bid for Monsanto. The other large transactions are Dow Chemical’s proposed takeover of DuPont, and ChemChina’s planned acquisition of Syngenta.