The German group Bayer is going to abolish the Monsanto brand as soon as it has finalised its takeover of the American GMO and pesticide giant, thus removing a name that is synonymous for its detractors with the excesses of agrochemicals.
"Bayer will remain the name of the company. Monsanto, as the company name, will not be retained," the German pharmaceutical and agrochemical specialist announced Monday, and plans to close the deal on Thursday.
The future group may keep its flagship products, including the glyphosate herbicide marketed under the brand name "Round Up", but with "Monsanto", it is letting go of a term that has crystallized the protests of environmental activists for decades. Bayer, on the other hand, highlights the attachment of farmers and professionals to brands such as Dekalb (corn and rapeseed seeds), Seminis (vegetable seeds) or De Ruiter (vegetable seeds), which will therefore not be renamed.
With this minimal grooming, the German group tries to distance itself from the sulphurous image of its target, which is hated by farmers' organizations and ecologists alike. Monsanto has also been embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings over health scandals and environmental damage.
But in terms of substance, Bayer is taking the biggest gamble in its history by swallowing the Saint-Louis-based group for almost 63 billion dollars, an unprecedented amount for a German group to acquire abroad - with the aim of expanding its agrochemicals branch, the second pillar of the group after pharmaceuticals. In announcing this giant marriage in May 2016, Bayer was counting on the need for more intensive agriculture, since the planet is expected to have nearly ten billion inhabitants in 2050 without arable land being extended to the same extent.
With this merger, Bayer will get its hands on glyphosate, a controversial herbicide whose carcinogenicity has been the subject of contradictory studies. The French government has recently committed to stop using the substance by 2021, without enshrining the ban in law.
"We will listen to those who criticise us and work together," but "progress must not be halted because of a strengthening of ideological fronts," Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said on Monday.