Bayer Suffering Buyer's Remorse For Monsanto Acquisition

If only Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and agricultural seed and chemical giant, had bothered to ask around before acquiring the American-based Monsanto Company for $63 billion in cash last June.

Two months later a jury delivered a $289 million award (later reduced to $78 million) to a groundskeeper who claimed his frequent exposure to Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller had given him cancer and that the company covered up the danger. (In 2015 the World Health Organization classified glyphosate, the name of the active ingredient in Roundup, as a probable carcinogen. Glyphosate is one of the most broadly used herbicides in the world.)

There are over 8,000 cases pending against Monsanto in the United States and many more will surely be filed. Bayer's stock has lost $38 billion in value since Bayer acquired Monsanto. The company would have done better putting its $63 billion in cash into a hole in the ground.

When thinking about any type of business combination, it pays to ask around about the reputation of your prospective business partner. I remember attending an organic trade show years ago when in casual conversation a fellow convention-goer referred to Monsanto as Monsatan. I laughed.

Monsanto's main line of business, genetically engineered crops (also called genetically modified organisms or GMOs), was fast becoming a migraine headache for organic growers who are forbidden from planting such crops. But some growers were having their fields contaminated by wind-blown pollen and seeds from neighboring GMO farms. As a result organic growers have had to adopt new onerous testing and production techniques to protect their crops.

Monsanto, by dint of its lobbying prowess and ample political contributions, has never been obliged by regulatory officials to do anything about this problem. In fact, it seemed that Monsanto was moving toward a long-sought goal: Contaminate non-genetically engineered crops so that no one could offer a GMO-free version no matter how hard they tried.

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Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular ...

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