German drug and chemical company Bayer is finalising a $66 billion blockbuster deal to gobble up agricultural giant Monsanto on Thursday.
In a statement on Monday, Bayer said it planned to drop Monsanto's 117-year-old title and would henceforth be known only as Bayer.
“Bayer will remain the company name. Monsanto will no longer be a company name," the company said. "The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio."
The name drop appears to be part of a strategic move geared at distancing the new behemoth from negative publicity surrounding Monsanto and GMOs.
First announced in September 2016 as part of a strategic move to boost agricultural research and innovation, the merger will be the largest acquisition in Bayer's company history and will double the size of Bayer's current farm business.
You can't utter the name "Monsanto" in public and not be met with at least one stink eye.
For decades, the company has been met with public outrage and disgust linked to its history of controversial dealings with farmers and its standout role in popularising genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. This spring, Monsanto landed a spot on a well-known list of the top 20 most hated companies in America.
The decision to drop the Monsanto moniker, then, is no huge surprise.
On a call with reporters on Monday, Liam Condon, Bayer's head of the crop science division, said that Monsanto had "actually itself considered changing its name" at one time, but elected "not to do that, apparently for cost reasons."
Still, Condon continued, "it was an issue for some time for Monsanto management ... to try to improve the Monsanto brand."
"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,” Christi Dixon, Monsanto's public relations lead, said in a statement to Business Insider.
Dixon said that Monsanto will operate independently from Bayer during an interim period, and "During this time, it will be business as usual for us, including our company name."
The company is also making moves to invest more deeply in advanced tools for gene editing, a process that can be capitalised on for agricultural purposes to make cheaper but higher-quality produce. Many companies are moving away from the traditional process of tweaking crops' DNA with GMOs and other crude methods of genetic modification in favour of more precise techniques like Crispr.
In March, Monsanto put $125 million behind gene-editing startup Pairwise, a company whose founder, Haven Baker, told Business Insider he aimed to bring the first fruit tweaked with Crispr to grocery store shelves — a development he expects in five to 10 years.