Green Or Gone

Bayer Can Drop The Name Monsanto, But Can’t Erase The Hate

The German pharma giant wants to do a bit of 'rebranding,' after the mega merger with the U.S.-based agro-giant. But anti-Monsanto sentiment is bound to remain no matter what it's called.

Sowing the seeds of hate
Elisabeth Dostert

MUNICH — Bayer is dropping the name Monsanto. What's surprising about this is not the move itself, but the speed with which the new owners are getting rid of the old name. Apparently, for the German multinational, things just couldn't go fast enough. After all, for its critics, the U.S. agro-multinational is the epitome of evil. Over the years, it had acquired names such as "Evil Incorporated," "Monsatan" or, in reference to its work in genetic engineering, "Mutanto." Perhaps no other company on Earth has attracted as much hatred as Monsanto.

So the name will disappear. And then all shall be well, right? It's not that simple. Any coming attack will now be directed with full force against Monsanto's new owner, the German multinational Bayer. And the blows will be coming from many places.

There are, for example, the class action lawsuits filed by cancer patients in the United States who blame their disease on the active ingredients glyphosate and dicamba. Such legal disputes can drag on for years and the outcome is completely open. What's more, Bayer will not, under any circumstances, discontinue the genetic engineering business — on the contrary. Crop protection products and genetically modified organisms are one of Monsanto's core competencies. The core business remains, and so will the criticism.

He is confident that Bayer is the better brand.

But the attacks might also come from within. Despite everything, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann is certain of his eventual victory. He is confident that Bayer is the better brand and wants to impose his corporate culture on the Americans. But what if that doesn't work? What if the takeover of Monsanto ultimately fails because of cultural barriers? Many employees identify with "their" company through its name. Baumann is giving Monsanto employees no time to say goodbye to their old name and get used to the new one. The chief of the Leverkusen-based company is acting like a conqueror, and that's a mistake.

He could have taken his time. He could have waited to be able to better assess whether the integration was really successful. But by taking over Monsanto, Bayer is endangering its own reputation. In other words, it may be rid of the name, but it won't be rid of the hatred anytime soon.

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Boris Johnson tells France — not so eloquently — to prenez un grip

Bertrand Hauger


-Essay-

PARIS — I'll admit it straight away: As a bilingual journalist, the growing use of Franglais by French politicians makes my skin crawl.

Not because I think this blend of French and English is a bad thing in and of itself (it is!), or because the purity of the French language should be preserved at all costs (it should!) — but because in a serious context, it is — at best — a distraction from the substance at hand. And at worst, well …

But in France, where more and more people speak decent English, Anglo-Saxon terms are creeping in everywhere, and increasingly in the mouths of politicians who think they're being cool or smart.

Not that long ago, Emmanuel Macron was dubbed "the Franglais president" after tweeting "La démocratie est le système le plus bottom up de la terre" ...

Oh mon dieu

They call it Frenglish

It is much rarer when the linguistic invasion goes in the other direction, with far fewer English-speaking elected officials, or their electors, knowing more than a couple of words of French. (The few Brits who use it call it Frenglish)

Imagine then my horror last night watching British Prime Minister Boris Johnson berating France over the recent diplomatic clash surrounding the AUKUS submarine deal, cheekily telling UK media from Washington: "I just think it's time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break."

Cringe. Eye roll. Facepalm.
Here's the clip, in case you haven't had your morning cup of awkward.
Grincement de dents. Yeux au ciel. Tête entre les mains.

First, let me offer a quick French lesson: Sorry, BoJo, you needed the "infinitif" form here: "It's time for [us] to prendre un grip about this and me donner un break."

But that, of course (bien sûr), is not the point in this particular moment. Instead, this would-be bon mot is not just sloppy and silly, it is incredibly patronizing, particularly when discussing a multi-billion deal that sparked a deep diplomatic crisis in the Western alliance.

The colorful British politician is, alas, no stranger to verbal miscalculations and linguistic gaffes. He's also (Brexit, anyone?) not necessarily one who cares about preserving relationships with longstanding partners. This time, combining the two, even for such a shameless figure as Mr. Johnson, only one word came to my bilingual brain: Vraiment?

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