Chemical giant Bayer says it plans to invest about $5.6 billion over the next decade in developing “additional methods to combat weeds.”
The move comes a year after the acquisition of chemical company Monsanto, which brought with it legal troubles stemming from unsubstantiated links between glyphosate use and cancer.
According to a company news release, the “research and development investment will go towards improving the understanding of resistance mechanisms, discovering and developing new modes of actions, further developing tailored integrated weed management (IPM) solutions and developing more precise recommendations through digital farming tools.”
The company also plans to reduce its environmental impact by over 30 percent as it continues the process of integration with the former Monsanto business.
“We’re making good progress on integrating the acquired agriculture business, and are now starting to implement a series of measures to drive transparency and sustainability across our business,” Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer AG Werner Baumann.
“Bayer aims to achieve this by developing new technologies, scaling down crop protection volumes, and enabling more precise application. This will help to restore and retain biodiversity, combat climate change, and make the most efficient use of natural resources.”
Speaking on the back of the announcement, Bayer spokespeople were keen to emphasise that even with the new investment in R&D, existing tools like glyphosate would continue to play a critical role.
“We absolutely stand behind [products like] those and continue to work with our retail chain and our distributors to make sure farmers have access to these tools,” a spokesperson said.
This sentiment was echoed by industry leaders in Australia.
“Glyphosate is one of the fundamental tools that
we’ll need if we’re to succeed in that ongoing fight against poverty and
hunger, in the context of a ballooning global population,” National Farmers’
Federation President Fiona Simson said.
“New practices like low-and no-till cropping have radically
reduced our greenhouse gas emissions, improved quality of our soils, and taken
water use efficiency to new heights.”