The European Commission has given its blessing to the €54 billion deal, despite opposition from farmers and environmental groups. The acquisition will create the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company.
A merger between German pharmaceutical giant Bayer and US agrochemical company Monsanto can go ahead — but only under strict conditions, the European Commission said on Wednesday,
"We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion euros ($7.4 billion), meet our competition concerns in full," said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the EU's anti-trust chief.
She said the Leverkusen-based congolmerate had made commitments to dispose of key subsidiaries that overlap with Monsanto.
Vestager said the EU greenlight was subject to rules that ensure that "there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets."
Monsanto accepted an offer from Bayer in September to pay €46 billion to its shareholders and assume €7.3 billion in debt, to create the world's largest integrated pesticides and seeds company.
US must now rule
The proposed acquisition has since been scutinized by competition watchdogs around the globe, and still faces US regulatory approval.
In an attempt to appease EU regulators, Bayer announced in October the sale of parts of its agrochemical business to German rival BASF, in a deal worth €5.7 billion.
Earlier this month, BASF also committed to buying Bayer's vegetable seed business in a last-minute concession to Brussels.
'Merger from hell'
But the "mega-merger" has been scorned by environmentalists and other aid organizations who fear the deal gives the world's biggest manufacturers too much market power. Monsanto has long been heavily criticized for its genetically altered produce and use of the pesticide glyphosate.
Activists from Friends of Europe wrote to Vestager warning against the consequences of the takeover on the environment.
"Blocking this deeply unpopular merger would be a big win for the EU — over a million citizens have called on EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager to block this merger from hell," the activists said in a statement.
mm/rt (AFP, AP, dpa)