The below sentence appears in the article "Ärger für Bayer. Grüne fordern EU-Veto gegen Monsanto-Übernahme" from Der Spiegel. The article is about the forthcoming merger between Bayer (German multinational chemical and pharmaceutical company) and Monsanto (American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation), and the protests against the merger on the part of the Greens.

Umweltverbänden und den Grünen ist der 66-Milliarden-Dollar-Deal ein Dorn im Auge, weil sie eine Verstärkung jenes Trends in der industriellen Landwirtschaft vorhersagen, bei dem Pflanzen gentechnisch so verändert werden, dass ihnen ein spezielles Pestizid nichts ausmacht - was meist vom selben Hersteller angeboten wird.

I do not understand why nichts ausmacht is used in the sentence. According to the Pons Dictionary,

nichts ausmachen = to make no difference

Reverso Dictonary provides some additional examples of how nichts ausmacht can be used and translated into English:

Wir brauchen Ihre Hilfe, wenn es nichts ausmacht. = We need your help, if you don't mind.

Schon, wenn es Ihnen nichts ausmacht... = Actually, if you wouldn't mind...

As far as I can say, the intended meaning of the portion of the sentence from Der Spiegel highlighted in bold is:

... dass ihnen ein spezielles Pestizid nichts ausmacht - was meist vom selben Hersteller angeboten wird. = that they [plants] would need/require a specific pesticide, which is mostly offered by the same manufacturer.

"The same manufacturer" is probably the company that has genetically modified the plants in the first place.

My contextual translation of nichts ausmacht is different from the translations of this expression as given by the two dictionaries I referenced above. So, what does nichts ausmacht really mean in the sentence from Der Spiegel?

3 Answers 3


In this case it's best translated as "doesn't affect them", which loosely fits with the other meanings you quoted, too.

Pflanzen gentechnisch so verändert werden, dass ihnen ein spezielles Pestizid nichts ausmacht - was meist vom selben Hersteller angeboten wird.

I'd translate to:

Plants being genetically modified so they're not affected by a particular pesticide, which is typically offered by the same manufacturer.

  • 3
    Aha, I finally see: Plants should not be affected by a pesticide, but pests should be. So, a specific manufacturer produces pesticides that are harmless to the plants that they have genetically modified. Now it all makes sense. Dec 13, 2016 at 20:48
  • 1
    I think doesn't matter is more fitting Dec 15, 2016 at 19:50
  • 3
    I think "doesn't matter" doesn't fit the English sentence at all...
    – tink
    Dec 15, 2016 at 23:40

It should be noted that the original text wrongly uses the word "Pestizid" (pesticide), whereas what it is speaking about, namely glyphosate, is a herbicide. A journalist, and maybe also a politician, didn't give attention.

Saying "es macht ihnen nichts aus" when speaking about plants is not very fitting, much like "it doesn't matter to them" isn't fitting; you would rather use this expression in conjunction with persons. So translating by "doesn't affect them", as has been suggested, makes the translation better than the original.


nichts ausmachen = doesn't harm

I would use "doesn't harm" instead of "doesn't affect/matter", because why would you buy a product, which has no effect and doesn't matter?

Scharfe Soße macht mir nichts aus.

I woulnd't use spicy dip, if it didn't affect the meal, if it didn't matter. No, it does no harm to me, in contrast, I like it!

So the original dictionary entry isn't completly wrong,

nichts ausmachen = to make no difference

but incomplete. Sometimes it is strictly used as no difference at all, in no direction, but sometimes it is biased against negative perceived difference:

nichts ausmachen = to make no (negative) difference

would be better.

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