Agrochemical behemoth Monsanto was never been very popular among environmentalists and advocates of healthy nutrition. Its key role in developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and its marketing of pesticides throughout the world have made it for many people a prototypical example of corporate greed. It’s not for nothing that it gained the nickname “Monsatan.” But while the company is no longer independent, its continued existence as a business unit of its new owner, Bayer, is causing headaches for Bayer’s management and shareholders.
Bayer purchased Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, a move that was intended to shore up Bayer’s position as a worldwide leader in the chemical industry. But the purchase has turned out to be a major headache for Bayer. In addition to a $2 billion judgment against Monsanto in the US due to cancer caused by its pesticide Roundup, Monsanto’s European operations are coming under fire for a massive spying scandal.
Monsanto compiled information on individuals in at least 7 European countries, including Germany, France, and Italy, including non-public information. The individuals monitored included journalists and other prominent people on either side of the pesticide debate. Monsanto compiled the information in order to attempt to influence the debate on pesticides within Europe.
While the information Monsanto compiled may not have broken any laws regarding personal information, the optics are less than ideal. And this may only be the tip of the iceberg. Monsanto may very well have engaged in this type of behavior in many other countries, but the information is only now coming to light.
This is a big black mark not only for Monsanto, but also for its new owner, Bayer, which is now facing shareholder backlash for its actions. The risk that this scandal ends up snowballing can’t be underestimated, nor can the risk of further lawsuits against Monsanto be underestimated. We’ll just have to wait and see what further dirty laundry gets aired as this scandal continues to be unwound.