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The US harvests more than 4 billion bushels of soybeans every year, making it a hotbed of competition for never-sated food conglomerates.
German giant Bayer and Indianapolis-based Corteva both want to be the leading soybean seller in the US, and the heated competition is playing out in the fields and in the courts, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Soy isn’t just the basis of tempeh, tofu, and alternative milk. It’s a key ingredient in many products you find at the grocery store — cereals, cookies, chips, bread, gum, processed meats, canned tuna, pasta. The total economic impact on the US economy from the soybean sector averages $124 billion, according to the National Oilseed Processors Association and the United Soybean Board. So you really want to be the company selling soy seeds to farmers.
In 2018, Bayer, known mostly for its pharmaceutical business, purchased Monsanto, the makers of the weed-killer Roundup and Roundup-resistant soybean seeds. Monsanto also had been the preferred supplier to America’s corn and soybean farmers for decades, but now, Bayer is losing ground — both figuratively and literally — to Corteva, which was spun off from DuPont in 2019. The WSJ reported that Corteva’s Enlist and Bayer’s Xtend seeds will make up about 55% and 45%, respectively, of US soybean sales this year.
With the companies neck-and-neck, the battle for farmers is expected to become even more intense:
- Bayer’s XtendiMax is good at killing weeds, but when sprayed, it can drift to neighboring farms and damage crops, which has prompted some states to limit how much farmers can spray.
- Corteva is using this to its advantage in the marketing for its Enlist E3 weed killer — most notably with the “I have the freedom to spray” campaign — as it doesn’t have the same limits as XtendiMax. Corteva has also supported at least one group lobbying for tighter regulations on Bayer’s weed killer, the WSJ reported.
I’ll See You in Court: The rivalry also has spurred legal action. Last August, Bayer filed a lawsuit alleging Corteva used Bayer technology in the development of its Enlist soybeans. Just hours later, Corteva fired back with a similar lawsuit, alleging Bayer’s herbicide-resistant corn infringes on a Corteva patent. It’s a classic American struggle — which company gets to be a monopoly, and which gets to be a slightly smaller monopoly.