Some of the largest players in the food and agriculture sectors have been allowed to engage in anticompetitive mergers and practices that are as serious, if not more so, than those of which Big Tech stands accused.
Amid Congressional investigation and federal, state and private antitrust cases, all eyes are on Big Tech. The step up in antitrust enforcement against the digital technology behemoths and their alleged abuses of market power is, by all accounts, good news. Successful cases could restore competition, which would benefit smaller businesses and American consumers alike.
And after decades of under-enforcement of the antitrust laws in the U.S., these cases could deliver some base hits — and even home runs — for a critical area of law enforcement.
But the outsized media, political and social attention paid to the tech industry has diverted focus from other important sectors. There are monopolies and domestic cartels elsewhere — in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, media and communications, as well as food and agriculture. These industries produce goods and services that are essential to the health, safety and well-being of consumers, and even to our national security, which is why antitrust laws must be enforced against violations in these sectors, too.
The food system has been particularly fertile ground for rising concentration, the emergence of dominant firms and formation of domestic cartels. Some of the largest players have been allowed to engage in anticompetitive mergers and practices that are as serious, if not more so, than those of which Big Tech stands accused.
Much like their counterparts in the tech sector, many of the largest food and agriculture corporations have acquired their way to dominance by gobbling up rival businesses. This has occurred across the food system, including digital farming startups, biotechnology firms, food manufacturers, flour millers, farm machinery manufacturers and grocery store chains. But nowhere has it been more pronounced than agricultural inputs.
In acquiring competitors both small and large, the six biggest agricultural biotechnology firms collapsed rapidly into the Big Three — Bayer, DuPont and ChemChina. This wave of consolidation, which was met with little resistance from antitrust authorities, gave these corporations control of proprietary,