Discussions of what occurs in the field of agricultural technologies and the trickle-down effect this has on farmers and consumers alike tends to focus exclusively on Monsanto, especially in the U.S. This is understandable. Monsanto is consistently described and regarded as the leader of the ‘Big Six’, precisely because of its size and, more notably, because of the more outwardly controversial avenues of development and public integration it adopts. However to ignore or downplay the presence of these other companies would be a mistake. So let’s have a look.
- Established as ‘Badische Anilin und Soda-Fabrik’ in 1865, BASF is centred in Ludwigshaten, Germany.
- Core products include: plastics; chemicals; performance products – such as raw materials for detergents and textile chemicals; and, most notably here, agricultural chemicals including herbicides and insecticides, and the development of new biotechnologies (in standing cooperation with Monsanto).
- Employees 95,000 total across five continents (2013).
- Holding company for pharmaceutical, biotech and agrochemical industries.
- Details itself as focussing on the ‘core competences in the life sciences field’, and as an ‘innovator in pharmaceutical and medical products’.
- Employees 119,000, with logged sales of $42.2 billion (2014).
- Third-largest chemical production company after Dow and ExxonMobil.
- Operates through five divisions: automatic finishings and coatings; agrochemicals and GMOs; electronics, including flurochemicals; polymers and resins for packagings; and safety and security materials, such as kevlar.
- Employees 60,000 across 20 countries.
DOW Chemical Company
- The United States’ largest chemical company, and one of the largest in the world alongside ExxonMobil.
- Products include: ‘performance plastics’, such as those designed specifically for engineering; commodity chemicals; and agrochemicals.
- Its Agricultural Sciences division specialises in providing crop protection, urban pest management, and crop and seed biotechnological development.
- Employs 52,000 (2015).
- Based in Basel, Switzerland, its focus lies on global agribusiness, agrochemical and biotech industries; its North American subsidiary, Sygenta seeds, opened in 2009.
- It is a primary producer of herbicides and insecticides, and of field crop and vegetable seeds.
- The most controversial and arguably the most public agribusiness of the ‘Big Six’.
- A global leader in the production and development of a range of biotechnologies, notably herbicides and genetically-modified seeds that are resistant to these treatments.
- As well as its flagship product RoundUp, other notable products produced under the Monsanto brand include DDT, Agent Orange, Aspartame, and BST or bonne somatotropin, sold under the name Posilac, a growth hormone given to diary cows to stimulate increased production.
- Employs 22,000 around the world, with approximately 10,000 of these in the United States.
So, why the fact sheet? What is the significance of these details?
Size. Even by this brief assessment of each member of the so-called Big Six of agricultural biotechnology, it is clear that when combined together these companies have an incredible position of power. Together these six corporations both own and control 75 percent of the world’s pesticides market . Monsanto, Dupont and Sygenta control 47 percent of the worldwide propriety seed market. In the ever-developing world of GMOs, the leading controversy-generator and patriarch of these transnational corporations Monsanto and its genetically-modified seeds account for 87 percent of the world’s total GM crop industry.
The millions of dollars spent lobbying, the lawsuits brought against these corporations, and the millions of people that have both testified for and protested against the work and actions of these six global powerhouses are just two indicators of the importance of these issues of agriculture. The legitimacy of this monopolisation of agricultural technology is a topic this blog will seek to discuss and address in detail. It will also look at what the positions and developments of these corporations, and particularly those of Monsanto, mean practically for farmers and consumers both now and in the future.