Who Will Be the Next Monsanto-Like Villain in Agriculture?

Three and a half years ago I wrote of the likely demise of anti-agriculture’s favorite corporate villain, Monsanto. Bayer and Monsanto at that time were engaged in merger talks. I speculated that modern agriculture opponents — many of whom had made their fortunes portraying all things Monsanto as bad — could ultimately lament this high-profile name disappearing. Given recent events, I thought it would be a good time to provide an update on “Villain Quest.”


Going back to that original column, I remember asking readers which ag company would become the new villain when the Monsanto name faded from view. According to this poll, 36% of respondents believed whatever company ended up buying Monsanto would inherit the villain label. So, Bayer would become the new Monsanto.

Who will be the next villain in agriculture?

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That’s not to say that Bayer hasn’t taken some hits among modern agriculture opponents over the past few years. However, I have yet to witness the wholesale protesting by scores of demonstrators that seemed to be a hallmark of Monsanto’s time as villain. Perhaps it’s harder to hate an ag player such as Bayer when that company also helps cure consumer headaches and protects consumer-grown roses from white flies.

Of course, the real reason Bayer has seemingly been spared from the villain role among critics is the fact that many of them have tried very, very hard to keep the Monsanto name alive in the public sector. Indeed, amid all the news about trial verdicts going against glyphosate this past year, the business press has regularly identified Bayer as the plaintiff. However, when a quote appears in one of these stories from a protest spokesperson, the word “Monsanto” normally gets name dropped, as if the company still exists. In this case, the Monsanto name is acting the role of a classic comic book villain, seemingly killed off for good in one issue only to rise again a few issues later.

Another reason why I bring up this agricultural villain talk ties back to a conversation I had at the PACE Advisory Council meeting in October. The PACE group, which consists of many of the ag market’s key decision makers and observers, has met annually for the past 25 years to talk about industry trends, needs, and challenges. Obviously, this year’s group had a LOT to discuss, including an hour-long debate on the glyphosate issue.

As a side note to this, one participant said he had recently witnessed a protest rally that had targeted another large agricultural company, Cargill, as the new agricultural villain. On one hand, I can see the logic behind this — Cargill, as one of the world’s largest privately held companies, is involved in agriculture but doesn’t share much information with anyone about its internal workings. On the other hand, Cargill dabbles in such areas as grain sales, high fructose corn syrup production, and salt mining. None of these activities would seemingly rank high on the list of “evil plots to destroy the world,” according to most ag opponents. (Indeed, the PACE representative reported only seeing “about a dozen” protesters at this “down with Cargill” rally.)

So, for now it appears the Villain Quest will continue without a clear candidate as the next “kingpin of bad agriculture.”


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Avatar for Mark Shepherd Mark Shepherd says:

Articles like these are horrible for the Agricultural industry. I’m not quite sure what you are attempting to achieve. You’re acting the fool.

Avatar for Kenneth Gallaher Kenneth Gallaher says:

Facts suck huh?

Avatar for Thomas R Hedden Thomas R Hedden says:

Who do we believe??

Avatar for Adam Bailey Adam Bailey says:

Name a person in Ag who has not benifited from Monsantos traits and chemicals. If you have to use the word Vilian in Ag, it would go towards any company selling chemical or traited seed. You should have left this in the note pad 3 1/2yrs ago. Horrible article. All this gives is more bad press for Agriculture.

Avatar for Kenneth Gallaher Kenneth Gallaher says:

“The agricultural industry needs to reboot. Progress does not always mean moving forward, especially when it’s not working AND causing great harm. We need to reemploy organic sustainable agricultural practices. We need to stop dousing untested (ex: Monsanto NEVER tested the full formulation glyphosate product Roundup) biocides on our environment. We are in the 6th great extinction. What is not to understand?

Avatar for Dan Steward Dan Steward says:

We need to be introspective and impartial in evaluating our industry. After doing so myself, based on the information I can gather, I have concluded that Glyphosate and GMO’s are getting a bad rap. There is the possibility I could be wrong. We may find some unforeseen adverse effect in the future, but probably not.
They have definitely brought huge documented benefits to food production and the environment.

Avatar for Dan Steward Dan Steward says:

This is a very bad trend when environmental radicals and/or tort lawyers can have a hugely disproportionate affect on the direction of our national food production system, science be damned.

Avatar for Dan Steward Dan Steward says:

However, lighten up people! I take your poll for what it is.. observational humor. Push back against the activists and rent-seekers as much as possible, but nothing wrong with making light of the ridiculousness of the whole thing. That being said, it will be the company that has the deepest pockets that will be targeted next, who ever that may be.

Avatar for EJ EJ says:

Bayer is and has always been villain to the natural world…Monsanto, Bayer and the entire poison cartel should burn in hell for crimes against humanity they’ve committed. Organic regenerative agriculture is the future. Get on board because every day a new activist is born.

Avatar for YK YK says:

Hi all I think it’s the end users problem it’s your land you feed the people so we all into it so stay put and let the next generation decide the bad and good