Monsanto sale could threaten area’s plant science hub, farm economy

More than a few hurdles face German chemicals and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG before its unsolicited offer to buy Monsanto becomes reality. But assuming antitrust concerns, financing challenges, skeptical shareholders and hesitant Monsanto leadership don’t derail the offer, how worried should St. Louis be?

Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, which is arguably the crown jewel in the region’s thriving plant sciences scene, is heavily invested in the region, and it’s in their interest to maintain and grow their workforce here, said Donn Rubin, the president and CEO of BioSTL. If Bayer ultimately buys the company, it likely wouldn’t change plans already in motion or ignore the region’s strong plant sciences workforce.

Currently, the biotech giant is in the midst of a $400 million expansion of its Chesterfield Village Research Center that will add hundreds of research and development jobs to the area. And beyond Monsanto, there are hundreds of plant science Ph.D.s who work in other companies or research institutions such as the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center.

So even if Bayer start calling the most of the shots, leaders in the area’s biotech community don’t see it dampening St. Louis’ reputation as a plant and life sciences research hub or slowing the momentum the region has built.

However, experts say a Bayer-Monsanto deal may be a tipping point for U.S. farmers, who have been squeezed by a global downturn in grain prices and high land rents. The sector’s big six agrochemical and seed companies companies have felt the pressure, too, as decreased sales have forced them to try to shore up profits through mergers and partnerships.

Bayer’s bid has already prompted one leading farm state lawmaker to call for the Justice Department to keep a close eye on all of the deals.

“The Bayer-Monsanto talks only heighten the possibility that the industry, farmers and consumers could be adversely impacted by this consolidation trend,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa told Reuters.

Analysts at Bernstein say that in order to clear antitrust hurdles to acquire Monsanto, Bayer would likely need to sell part of its cotton and vegetable seeds segments and a category of weed killers called non-selective herbicides.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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