Thrills, pills and seeds

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Why does Bayer - a fairly boring German drug company want to bet the ranch on buying an American agriculture business, Monsanto, that in the fairly recent past was called the world's most hated company?

The veteran singer songwriter Neil Young released an album earlier this year called "The Monsanto Years" - it wasn't a tribute.

And yet this megadeal offers clues as to the future of something mega-important - the world's food supply.

Bayer will probably see its credit worthinesss downgraded after borrowing $60bn of the $66bn asking price for the world biggest seed company.

And remember, Monsanto is the poster child for genetically modified crops which, while accepted in the US and elsewhere, are treated with suspicion at best and revulsion at worst in Bayer's home markets of Europe.


It's a massive gamble in many ways - so why do it?

Keeping up with the competition.

Bayer's pursuit of Monsanto follows a series of other big deals which has reduced the number of big players.

China National Chemical Corp agreed in February to acquire Syngenta AG, while DuPont Co and Dow Chemical Co plan to merge and then carve out a new crop-science unit.

Power is getting more concentrated.

The new corporation will be the biggest seed and pesticide company in the world with enormous power over the world's food supply.

Critics have painted a picture of crops of genetically modified plants, drenched in pesticides, killing-off bees and messing with the delicate balance of the planet's ecosystem.

The scientists argue that GM crops produce higher-yielding more disease-resistant crops which make sense if you want to feed a growing world population.

This mega deal suggests that Bayer thinks the scientists and economists will ultimately win the argument.

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