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Bayer prepares for crop tech challenges ahead of potential merger with Monsanto

Adrian Percy, head of research and development at Bayer CropScience, delivers the keynote speech  at the 2017 Ag Innovation Showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio
Adrian Percy, head of research and development at Bayer CropScience, delivers the keynote speech at the 2017 Ag Innovation Showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

As European regulators investigate the potential $66 billion Bayer-Monsanto merger, Bayer's CropScience division is preparing to address challenges in crop technology, especially those tied to Monsanto's products. 

At the annual Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Adrian Percy, Bayer CropScience's head of research and development, said a priority for the merged companies would be addressing a decline in pollinators and meeting the high demand for herbicides to combat resistant weeds.

Percy also emphasized the need to engage the public about emerging technologies, such as the gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, for which Monsanto acquired the licensing rights last year. 

"What's really critical is that we find a way to explain these technologies, which are really valuable," he said. "They're not just going to help us in producing new types of plants but also curing diseases in humans or in animals, so it would be a real shame if we fail to explain to the public that these are safe technologies that really will provide benefits in the long run." 

Percy expressed confidence that Bayer would win the regulatory approvals it needs to acquire Monsanto by year's end. The European Commission has set a Jan. 8 deadline for completing an investigation into the merger.

Bayer expects to market its herbicides and growth products, such as Liberty and Poncho/VOTiVO, alongside Monsanto's products. But Percy did not provide any information on which products could be phased out.


Percy said the company has hired a number of researchers to look into herbicide resistance. He cited a partnership Bayer CropScience forged in June 2015 with the Grain Research and Development Corporation in Australia that tasked 39 scientists to develop new solutions for controlling weeds. 

If the two companies become one, the merged entity would need to address the crop damage linked to Monsanto's dicamba-based pesticide, Xtendimax. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia estimate that in Missouri, approximately 320,000 acres of soybeans have been injured by dicamba this year. Percy is optimistic that Bayer and Monsanto's researchers can solve such problems. 

"The technologies that do exist, we have to find ways to make them coexist so that growers using different types of technologies can do so without worry," Percy said. 

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

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