Slick PR or Slippery Concession?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The long-anticipated news of the Bayer-Monsanto merger has me concerned that innovation may suffer -- but for not for the reasons Jaana Woiceshyn ably debunks at How to Be Profitable and Moral. Rather, my concerns stem from the same hope she expresses in her closing paragraph:

One can only hope that Bayer will continue to take the moral high ground and vigorously defend its right to produce and trade both agrochemicals and GMO seeds.
While my background in academic science might make me a poor interpreter of corporate-speak, Bayer's plans to drop the venerable Monsanto name, coupled with the following statement, give me pause:
Image via Pixabay.
"We aim 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," Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann said in the statement.
Alone, dropping the Monsanto name -- although I wouldn't do it -- is understandable: Like Haliburton once was, it's a name leftists use to evoke all their stereotypes and misunderstandings about capitalism and progress. But dropping the name sounds weak to me, and it won't do Bayer any good if its enemies sense weakness come time to stand up for its intellectual property rights, or its freedom to market genetically-modified seeds. Baumann's conciliatory words, directed towards an audience ignorant of (or indifferent to) the great good genetically-modified organisms represent, do not instill confidence in me, a grateful consumer of same.

Here's hoping that any dialogue Bayer has with society includes those of us among the general public who realize that capitalism is a win-win game.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

Thanks for the post Gus. Monsanto will be Monsanto for no more than another couple of months. So, this seems like as good a place and time as any to make a tribute.
I've been associated with Monsanto for more than twenty years and I'm very glad I took the job. It was a tremendous scientific journey and a great place to have a career. It’s very hard to get promotions here but that is because we are surrounded all the time by incredibly accomplished and ambitious people. Monsanto was something special and our leadership like Hugh Grant and Rob Fraley had a very large role in making that happen.
One of my favorite memories is of the time our tour guide bragged to my visiting professor about everything Monsanto had accomplished, 'with not a cent of government money’, he boasted, sounding almost like a character from Atlas Shrugged (and brave enough to make this declaration to an academic he didn’t know). I couldn’t have been more proud.
Monsanto brought tremendous value to its investors, innovative products to farmers worldwide, respect to its employees, created thousands of inventions (e.g. AstroTurf, Roundup, and Celebrex, first sequence of a crop (rice) genome); value for everyone. We transformed agriculture; a testament to the power of science and capitalism. As far as companies go, Monsanto was one of the very best; one of the good guys. It will be missed.
BTW, Monsanto was named by its founder, John Queeny. It was his wife's maiden name, so the name isn't just a name made up to sound cool, like Syngenta, Pioneer, or Novartis. It actually means something (and a hint of their romance, maybe?). For the record, numerous buildings and rooms throughout St. Louis sport the name Monsanto name, which will therefore live on.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the note.

I enjoyed the tour of Monsanto I took when I lived in St. Louis. That guide, too, was obviously and justifiably proud of the work they do. That fact made an already interesting visit inspiring.