Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto is being called the biggest agribusiness acquisition of all time. But, the $63 billion transaction also closes out a corporate name that will be forever etched in agricultural history.
The company likes to start its official timeline when agriculture became a focus after divestiture from Pharmacia in 2002, but its roots run much deeper.
John F. Queeny founded the company in 1901 in St. Louis to produce saccharine at one-sixth the cost of sugar. He named the company after his wife, Olga Monsanto Queeny. Their son, Edward Queeny, brought agriculture to the portfolio in the 1940s with an insecticide called Santobane. Ventures into fertilizer followed.
Still, it was John Franz’s discovery of the glyphosate molecule in 1970 and the journey into genetic engineering in the 1980s that shaped this company.
Bold acquisitions of firms such as Holden Foundation Seeds, Asgrow, DeKalb Genetics Corp. and Delta and Pine Land Co. combined with genetic genius and fierce marketing to build Monsanto to the seeds and traits powerhouse we know today.
Bayer gave up a lot to seal the deal--spinning off more than $9 billion in assets to BASF. Bayer and Monsanto remain stand-alone competitors and won’t start knitting together until those BASF deals are finalized.
Meanwhile, farmer customers from both companies should not expect any immediate disruptions in service this season, Bayer executive Liam Condon explains. “We’re placing huge emphasis on continuity for our customers.”
And, the company will be called Bayer.
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