German pharmaceutical giant Bayer will officially buy US agriculture giant Monsanto on Thursday (June 7) for $63 billion, after securing approval for the deal from US and European regulators. Bayer announced they will immediately retire the 117-year-old Monsanto name.
Monsanto is the world’s biggest supplier of genetically modified seeds, and the name “Monsanto” has become a rallying point for members of the anti-GMO movement. The name has been sullied in recent years by controversies ranging from lawsuits over organic farmers turning up traces of GMO genes in their crops, to the listing of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide product Roundup, as probably cancer-causing by the World Health Organization.
The US Environmental Protection Agency disagreed with the WHO classification in December, concluding that glyphosate likely does not cause cancer. The the carcinogenic potential of Roundup is currently also the subject of a lawsuit, which is scheduled for a trial this month.
Bayer’s decision to drop the name means Monsanto products like Roundup will still be Roundup, but now they will be Bayer’s Roundup, not Monsanto’s Roundup. Roundup will still contain glyphosate.
“Bayer will remain the company name. Monsanto will no longer be a company name. The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio,” Bayer said in a statement to Reuters.
Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director of Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group which campaigns against GMO food, said in a statement on Tuesday (June 5) that Bayer “should not assume that just by dropping a name they have dropped the liability. The worldwide food and environmental movements know that Bayer is now the ‘new Monsanto.’”
In an apparent nod to the controversies surrounding Monsanto, Bayer’s CEO Werner Baumann said the company aims to “deepen our dialogue with society. We will listen to our critics and work together where we find common ground. Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring progress to a standstill.”
The merger comes on the heels of ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta, the Swiss seed giant, and the merger of Dow and DuPont, now “DowDuPont.” Just three countries—the US, Germany, and China—now control much of the agricultural industry.