‘Monsanto’ is dead

By Melissa Locker

Monsanto will soon cease to exist. The brand that, as NPR puts it, has become shorthand for “lots of things that some people love to hate,” including genetically modified crops, seed patents, and herbicides like Roundup, will be no more. When the Bayer company wraps up its $63 billion takeover of the world’s largest genetically modified seed maker Monsanto this week, the first thing on its agenda is to do away with the company’s name, Reuters reports.

“Monsanto will no longer be a company name. The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio,” it said per Reuters. That means you’ll still be able to find Roundup, the company’s popular weedkiller and unintentional food additive, but now it will come from Bayer, not Monsanto.

Don’t bid farewell to the brand name quite yet, though. According to Monsanto, it will continue to operate independently from Bayer for an interim period while Bayer ties up some loose ends, as might be expected when rebranding a $60 billion agri-chemical giant. Until then, the name Monsanto remains the same. (The name, by the way, was chosen by John Francis Queeny when he founded the company in St. Louis in 1901: It was his wife’s maiden name.)

When reached for comment about the name change, a Monsanto spokesperson said, “We’re extremely proud of all we’ve accomplished as Monsanto, and are eager to continue to accelerate innovation in agriculture as we look forward to a future under Bayer.”

While Monsanto has long been a lightning rod for environmentalists and activists, Bayer seems prepared to work with the company’s critics moving forward. “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,” Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann said in the statement. Of course, changing the name of the 117-year old firm won’t stop the 300 or so lawsuits that have been filed against it in federal courts for allegedly causing cancer in farmers who used its products.

It’s not unusual of course for even larger companies to rebrand during corporate restructuring efforts–and to distance themselves from years of bad PR. Tobacco giant Philip Morris became Altria, military contractor Blackwater morphed into Xe and then Academi, and last year, stun gun and body camera maker Taser changed its name to Axon.

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