Bayer plans to reduce its “ecological footprint” by 30 percent by 2030 under a new sustainability initiative announced June 14.

“Bayer aims to achieve this by developing new technologies, scaling down crop protection volumes, and enabling more precise application,” the company said in a press release. “This will help to restore and retain biodiversity, combat climate change, and make the most efficient use of natural resources.”

Asked what prompted the new initiative, Darren Wallis, Bayer’s vice president of communications for its North American crop science division, said, “We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the two organizations,” referring to Bayer’s $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto last year. “From the outset, our promise to growers was we’re going to bring more innovation to them faster.”

Today’s announcement “is really leaning further into that conversation,” he said.

As part of the initiative, Bayer said it plans to spend about $5.6 billion over the next decade on research designed to find the most efficient and effective ways to control weeds.

“Glyphosate will continue to play an important role in agriculture and in Bayer’s portfolio,” the company said, but added it is “committed to offering more choices for growers.”

“This R&D investment will go towards improving the understanding of resistance mechanisms, discovering and developing new modes of actions, further developing tailored Integrated Weed Management solutions and developing more precise recommendations through digital farming tools.”

Wallis said Bayer “absolutely stands by glyphosate — not only its safety, but we know it is an important and essential tool.” Bayer will be looking not just to develop new modes of action to fight weeds, but to determine how to apply those MOAs as precisely as possible, using digital tools, Wallis said.

Such “tailored solutions” could include cover crops and crop rotation, he added.

Bayer also said it plans to apply “consistent safety standards to its products — even when it means exceeding local regulations.”

Since 2012, Bayer said it has stopped selling products high in acute toxicity, as classified by the World Health Organization, “regardless of whether they were allowed in a particular market,” the company said. Now, it said, “it will only sell crop protection products in markets that meet both the safety standards of that local market and the safety standards of a majority of countries with well-developed programs to regulate crop protection products.

Bayer also plans to launch a Bayer Sustainability Council of “global experts and stakeholders” to help it achieve its goals. Wallis said it was too soon to discuss possible members of the council. “Stay tuned and we’ll come back to you with more specifics,” he said.

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