No more Monsanto, but stay the Same

German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG closed its $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto Co., emerging from an arduous two-year antitrust review as the biggest seed and agricultural chemicals maker in the world.

Monsanto is the world’s biggest supplier of genetically modified seeds, and the name “Monsanto” has become a rallying point for members of the anti-GMO movement. The name has been sullied in recent years by controversies ranging from lawsuits over organic farmers turning up traces of GMO genes in their crops, to the listing of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide product Roundup, as probably cancer-causing by the World Health Organization.

The deal’s closing is just the beginning of another tough task: knitting the two companies together. Integration should begin in about two months, once the sale of some of Bayer’s agriculture assets to BASF SE is complete. The combined unit will be based in Monheim, Germany, while the North American business and seeds division will be led from St. Louis.

The transaction, which will double the size of Bayer’s agriculture business, means “we will be even better placed to help the world’s farmers grow more healthy and affordable food in a sustainable manner,” Bayer Chairman Werner Baumann said in a statement on Thursday.

Bayer has sold off its plastics business and remade itself into a life-science company with half its sales from health and half from agriculture. The takeover also marks the third in a series of mega-deals in the industry, following Dow Chemical Co.’s merger with DuPont Co. and China National Chemical Corp.’s takeover of Syngenta AG.

To soothe regulators’ concerns about whether enough competitors would remain in the market, Bayer agreed to sell about 7.6 billion euros ($9 billion) in assets to BASF. They include field seeds as well as Bayer’s vegetable-seeds business, some seed treatments and digital farming projects.

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