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France Bans Roundup, While Monsanto Eyes U.K. as New Home

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Energy & Environment
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With an increasing number of U.S. farmers turning toward non-genetically modified crops, bioengineering giant Monsanto seems to be looking for a new home -- and a new investment.

The GMO pioneer has renewed efforts to purchase the Swiss chemical company, Syngenta, for some months with a takeover offer that could conceivably help the media-embattled company expand its global reach. It's offered to pay $45 billion for the merger that would see it claim ownership to a host of agribusiness, farm and garden products sold in the U.S. and abroad, and reduce its competition in the agrichemical sector.

And it would give the American corporation a makeover of sorts, by allowing it to open a new, potentially stronger company in the United Kingdom. Recent offers by U.K. Chancellor George Osborne to lower the U.K.'s corporate tax to 20 percent has elicited interest from the corporation, which continues to be faced with a wary consumer base and a U.S. corporate tax rate of more than 30 percent.

But so far, Syngenta stockholders aren't biting. At the top of their concerns, it seems, are the "regulatory risks" that go along with creating a company that challenges anti-trust laws and would require Monsanto to likely sell off portions of its competitor, but could ultimately solidify the new company's hold in the soybean market.

To garner interest, it has offered Syngenta $45 billion, or 43 percent premium on stock value. It's also attempted to sweeten the pot by offering a $2 billion "break-up fee" if the merger should not go through.

But this week the corporation faces new challenges as well. Should the sale and move to the U.K. go through, it will be facing a ban on its star product Roundup at its closest border. On Sunday June 14, France's Ecology Minister Segolene Royal banned the sale of Roundup in response to environmental groups who expressed concern about United Nations statements that it may be carcinogenic.

It isn't the first time that France has taken steps to block the sale of GM products on its soil. In March 2014, France banned the sale of Monsanto 810 corn, which has also been banned in other European countries.

But Monsanto's admission that it is looking to move to the U.K. is telling in other quarters as well. With the increased scrutiny and criticism by the U.S. federal government of companies like Google and Microsoft, which have opted to place their tax base outside of the U.S., Monsanto's announcement indicates that it is less concerned about its image and more concerned about its business. And as Monsanto no doubt knows, those two issues often go together. Apparently, it's also less concerned about the new federal rules that govern such inversions, which may be just the kind of regulatory twists and turns that have dampened the enthusiasm of Syngenta stockholders.

Image of Monsanto President, Chair and CEO Hugh Grant: Mortiz Hager/World Economic Forum

Image of Syngenta field: AnRo0002

Image of Operation BumbleBee, Syngenta: Kate Jewell

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

Read more stories by Jan Lee