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Environment

Trump's Pick for Attorney General Could Be Big Boost to Monsanto

Senator Jeff Sessions' appointment would be good news for the pending Bayer-Monsanto mega-merger.

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Sen. Jeff Sessions as his attorney general.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC

Donald Trump's election win and his pick for attorney general could be a big boost to Bayer AG's $66 billion purchase of Monsanto Co. that is currently undergoing state and federal antitrust investigations.

Investopedia reports that Monsanto stocks have risen more than 4 percent since Trump's surprise victory. Additionally, Terry Haines of the investment banking advisory firm Evercore ISI said that the president-elect's nominee for attorney general—Sen. Jeff Sessions, a pro-business conservative from Alabama—is good news for any pending mega-deals. 

"Sessions' likely nomination and confirmation by the Senate, in which he has served since 1997, is a market positive for merger and acquisition activity," Haines, who heads Evercore's Political Analysis team, wrote in a note last week.

"Sessions as attorney general would shift immediately from the current mostly 'red light' Obama antitrust/competition policy and move towards one that would be friendlier to M&A activity," Haines added. 

A successful merger between the German pharmaceutical company and the St. Louis-based agritech giant will form the largest seed and pesticide company in the world. Critics are concerned that the consolidation of the two multinational juggernauts will increase pesticide and herbicide prices for farmers, and will have less incentive to compete and introduce better and cheaper products.

"Farmers get paid less for their crops, more pesticides are used and there are fewer options for consumers at the grocery store," Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch, told EcoWatch after Bayer and Monsanto announced acquisition plans in September. 

Haines, however, pointed out that Sessions might not think that big businesses unfairly reduces competition. "[Sessions may decide] that no reflexive test for the disapproval of a merger should be applied, as Obama regulators did with their 'no four into three' doctrine," he wrote.

Although, legal experts told Reuters that as U.S. attorney general, Sessions would be tough on any corporate crime. Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and Columbia Law School professor, told Reuters that the senator will be "a strong supporter" of corporate enforcement. 

Regardless, as Carey Gillam of U.S. Right to Know wrote that President Trump's era signals "[dark days] ahead for America's burgeoning food movement," which has been advocating for more transparency and fewer pesticides in food production. Case in point, he has picked U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo to be CIA director, a "designated hitter for Monsanto and the other Big Ag chemical and seed players."

In October, Trump blamed an intern for retweeting an insult to Monsanto.

"#BenCarson is now leading in the polls in #Iowa. Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain? #Trump #GOP," the post read. 

The retweet shunned Monsanto, which has a major presence in Iowa, with facilities in 18 different cities in the state. The company also happens to be a major GOP donor.

Trump, who reportedly holds between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of Monsanto stocks, does not support the labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients. 

When asked by the Iowa Farm Bureau, "Do you support the use of biotechnology in food products and oppose efforts to require mandatory labeling for foods simply because they contain ingredients derived from biotechnology?" Trump allegedly responded, "Yes."

Not only that, Modern Farmer noted that Trump, a junk food lover, does not seem to have an interest in organic food or organic farmers, and assembled an agribusiness-friendly agriculture advisory council during his presidential campaign.

Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina.

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