News Tip: Bayer-Monsanto Deal a ‘Taboo-Breaking Moment’ in Germany, Expert Says

Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto may force Germans to reconsider their national identity, a Duke professor says.

The purchase of Monsanto by Germany’s Bayer will have a significant effect on Germans, who may be forced to reconsider their national identity, says a Duke professor.


“The Bayer takeover of Monsanto, if it clears the regulatory bodies, represents a taboo-breaking moment in Germany that will force some rethinking of the national identity,” says Stefani Engelstein, an associate professor of Germanic languages and literature at Duke University. “Not only is Germany a country with visceral commitments to environmental sustainability and aversions to chemical and genetic interventions of any kind, but Germans are deeply uncomfortable with globalization itself.”

“It is illegal to grow genetically modified crops across much of the E.U., and groceries with genetically modified ingredients have been banned in Germany in the face of overwhelming resistance to the idea. Germans have embraced environmentalism on a personal level hard to fathom in the comfort-oriented United States.  Moreover, globalization itself raises hackles in Germany as a way of suppressing local cultural priorities and exploiting poorer and less-developed countries to enrich the few.”

“While these aversions are not unique to Germany, a particular intensity surrounds these issues there. The Green movement and anti-globalization movement draw moral force from a felt need to atone for Germany’s past.  As the largest takeover by a German company of a non-German company, this merger places Germany very visibly in the forefront of global capitalism, part of a slow creep to ‘normalization’ as a country, that is to behaving with the same disregard to communal ethics as other nations.”


Stefani Engelstein, an associate professor of Germanic Languages and Literature at Duke, researches the ways Europeans have understood and classified themselves and others in the humanities, sciences and social science.

For additional comment, contact Engelstein at: