BASF STOPS DEVELOPMENT OF GM POTATOES
BASF announced last week that it is concentrating its plant biotechnology activities on the main markets in North and South America. The company will adjust the portfolio and site footprint of its subsidiary BASF Plant Science to reflect this change.
The headquarters of BASF Plant Science will be moved from Limburgerhof, Germany, to Raleigh, N.C. Research and development activities will be concentrated mainly in Raleigh, Ghent, Belgium and Berlin, Germany.
Development and commercialization of all products targeted solely at cultivation in the European market (including potatoes) will be halted. Regulatory approval processes which have already started will be continued.
"We are convinced that plant biotechnology is a key technology for the 21st century. However, there is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe-from the majority of consumers, growers and politicians. Therefore, it does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market," said Dr. Stefan Marcinowski, member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF, responsible for plant biotechnology. "We will therefore concentrate on the attractive markets for plant biotechnology in North and South America and the growth markets in Asia."
Research Triangle Park near Raleigh, N.C., will become the new headquarters for BASF's activities in the area of plant biotechnology. It is planned that the current headquarters site in Limburgerhof, Germany, will retain 11 positions in some functions such as regulatory for Europe. The activities of BASF's Crop Protection division in Limburgerhof are not affected.
Currently 157 employees work for BASF Plant Science in Limburgerhof. The company plans to close its sites in Gatersleben, Germany, and in Svalöv, Sweden. Currently 57 people work in Gatersleben and six in Sweden. In total, it is planned to transfer 123 positions from Limburgerhof and Gatersleben to other BASF Plant Science sites, mainly Raleigh, and to reduce 78 positions over the next two years. Overall, this means that BASF is reducing 140 positions in Europe. BASF aims to offer the affected employees other positions within the BASF Group wherever possible. Consultations with the responsible employee representatives will start immediately. "Our employees have done excellent work over the past years. We regret that we are losing these high-quality jobs in Germany and Sweden," said Marcinowski.
The company's research facilities at metanomics in Berlin and CropDesign in Ghent will be strengthened. "Although the conditions for cultivation of genetically modified crops in Europe are unfavorable, there are world-class research institutes and universities in both Berlin and Ghent," explained Dr. Peter Eckes, President of BASF Plant Science. "We have excellent scientists and facilities there and at our research sites in North America. We will continue our industry-leading research at these locations in order to further build an attractive gene discovery platform and strengthen our position as the Trait Technology Partner."
BASF Plant Science will halt the development and commercialization of all products that are targeted solely for cultivation in the European markets. These include genetically modified starch potatoes (Amflora, Amadea and Modena), a potato resistant to the disease late blight called Fortuna as well as a late-blight resistant starch potato and a wheat variety resistant to fungal disease. To maintain all options for the potato products, BASF Plant Science will continue the regulatory approval processes for the products already started.
BASF Plant Science'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. This includes the collaboration with Monsanto for corn, soy, cotton, canola and wheat. At the end of 2011, the first product from this partnership, drought-tolerant corn, was approved for cultivation in the United States. Cultivance soybeans, developed together with Embrapa, were approved for cultivation in Brazil at the end of 2009, and the approval process for key export markets is ongoing.