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Monsanto to drop name after sale to Bayer

The new owner of Monsanto, synonymous with deadly chemical warfare and genetically modified plants, is ditching the name.
by Ben Popken /
Image: Monsanto
A Monsanto manufacturing and operations center in Lillo, Belgium, in 2016.John Thys / AFP - Getty Images

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The name of Monsanto, a company that has often been vilified for pioneering the genetic modification of crops, is about to be retired.

The move comes as part of the approved mega-merger sale of the American seed company to German pharmaceuticals and chemical giant Bayer, originally valued at $60 billion.

"Monsanto will no longer be a company name," Bayer said in a statement Monday. "The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio."

Bayer announced last month it would be selling off some $9 billion in assets as required by the U.S. Department of Justice in order to allow the sale to proceed to ensure competitiveness would be preserved.

In some quarters, the name Monsanto had become a blight, known for its pioneering of genetically modified corporate agribusiness and its development of the deadly herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

One of the company's innovations was to patent its genetically modified seeds — marketed as having higher crop yields — to be highly resistant to the Roundup herbicide it also sells. Another controversial practice was the company's decision to have farmers contractually agree to not save seeds from year to year and instead repurchase them annually from the company, or face lawsuits.

Companies with blotted images will sometimes rebrand as part of corporate restructuring and to distance themselves from their history. Tobacco maker Philip Morris became Altria. Infamous private military contractor Blackwater renamed itself Xe, and then Academi after being acquired by private investors.

Bayer said the goal of the merger was to double its business and spur innovation, drawing from the expertise of both companies. The company pledged to use the merger to produce more new products for farmers, faster, and to leverage its market position to enhance sustainability efforts. Bauman also said Bayer will listen to its critics and work together on those occasions they find common ground.

"Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring progress to a standstill," said Werner Baumann, Bayer's chairman of the board.

Described by activists as a "marriage made in hell," the merger is the second major decision of the DOJ's antitrust department under President Donald Trump. The first was a lawsuit the department filed in November to stop AT&T from acquiring Time Warner.

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