BASF to focus plant biotech work on Americas

A "lack of acceptance" for genetically modified crops in many parts of Europe is behind BASF’s plans to refocus its plant biotech work on North and South America.

The German chemical firm confirmed Monday it plans to move the headquarters of BASF Plant Science from Limburgerhof, Germany, to Raleigh, North Carolina, and to halt all development and commercialization work on products aimed solely at the European market.

"We are convinced that plant biotechnology is a key technology for the 21st century," BASF board member Stefan Marcinowski said in a release. "However, there is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe — from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians.

"Therefore, it does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market," he said. "We will therefore concentrate on the attractive markets for plant biotechnology in North and South America and the growth markets in Asia."

Development work to be discontinued for the European market includes projects such as genetically modified starch potatoes, potatoes resistant to late blight and a wheat variety resistant to fungal disease. Regulatory approval processes which have already started will be continued, the company said.

Elsewhere, the division’s product pipeline "will continue its strong focus on the yield and stress projects in which crops are developed with higher yields and improved resistance to stress conditions like drought."

For example, BASF noted its current collaborations with Monsanto on corn, soy, cotton, canola and wheat, including a drought-tolerant corn approved for cultivation in the U.S. in late 2011. The company’s Cultivance soybeans, developed with Embrapa, were approved for cultivation in Brazil at the end of 2009.

BASF’s principal ag plant breeding lines in Canada are its Clearfield lines of herbicide-tolerant canola, wheat, lentils and sunflowers, all of which are developed using mutagenesis and therefore considered non-GMO.

BASF said it also plans to close its plant science operations at Gatersleben, Germany and Svalov, Sweden. In all, the company’s moves are expected to cost 140 jobs in Europe, most of which will be moved to Raleigh.

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