Wanted: A New Villain In Agriculture?

Wanted: A New Villain In Agriculture?

More than 30 years ago, I remember reading one particular comic book story that still resonates with me to this day. Following a huge battle, the book’s superhero has come across his arch-enemy’s remains in a plane crash. It’s then that the finality of the moment hits him.

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“We defined each other, didn’t we?” laments the hero. “By understanding you, I came that much closer to understanding myself. And now you’re dead. Really dead. What am I going to do now?”

Given current events, I imagine more than a few modern agriculture/genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)/crop protection product “heroes” are echoing this same lament regarding the possible “demise” of their “defining villain,” Monsanto. Following a failed attempt to acquire rival crop protection products/seed supplier Syngenta late in 2015, the St. Louis, MO-based agricultural giant now finds itself an acquisition target.

In early May, German crop protection/seed giant Bayer made a formal offer to buy Monsanto for $62 billion. Ultimately, Monsanto Board of Directors decided against accepting this bid, but at the same time made it clear that more dialogue between the two companies “would be welcome.”

Now, market analysts expect Bayer to come back to Monsanto with a “sweetened” second offer, having reportedly lined up approximately $63 billion in financing to do so. Some kind of deal between the two could happen before the end of 2016. The endgame of this acquisition could see the demise of the Monsanto name.

Now I’m certain a few agricultural opponents will undoubtedly applaud this turn of events. After all, there have been marches and protests against Monsanto and all its stood for corporately for many years now, with several folks calling for the company’s “death.”

However, there is probably a sizable majority of these agricultural critics who have profited handsomely — both financially and in social media circles — from pointing their collective fingers at Monsanto and its products and crying “villain.” Who will these people use as their anti-hero now?

In a recent CropLife® poll, we asked readers to weigh in on this very question. Almost 250 readers gave us their view on which agricultural companies would replace Monsanto as “the villain” in the eyes of industry opponents. Not surprisingly, 36% of respondents believed whatever company ended up purchasing Monsanto would become “the new heavy.” Still, almost half (46%) thought that if the Monsanto name disappears, all other crop protection/seed suppliers would become “the new bad guys” for ag critics.

No matter what ultimately happens with Monsanto, it’s clear those within ag think someone will “feel the wrath” of the industry’s foes. Only time will tell which company (or companies) will be “playing the villain” next.