Bloomberg News

BASF Moves Unit to U.S. After Europe Rebuffs Modified Potato

January 17, 2012

(Adds executive’s comment starting in second paragraph.)

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- BASF SE, the maker of the Amflora genetically modified potato, is moving the plant-science division that alters genes in crops to the U.S. from Germany after European consumers resisted the technology.

The unit’s headquarters in Limburgerhof will shift to Raleigh, North Carolina, and development and commercialization of products targeted solely at cultivation in Europe will be halted, BASF said today in a statement. The move will lead to the loss of 140 European jobs and cost a “low two-digit million amount,” Stefan Marcinowski, the BASF board member who oversees plant biotechnology, said today on a conference call.

“There is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians,” Marcinowski said. “It does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market.”

The flight of research means Germany may lose out on the $12 billion market for genetically modified plants, which is set to grow 5 percent annually over the next five years, according to advisory firm Phillips McDougall. BASF, the world’s biggest chemical maker, founded the agricultural center in 1914 in Limburgerhof, near the company’s headquarters city of Ludwigshafen.

BASF fell as much as 1.4 percent to 56.80 euros and was down 0.3 percent at 3:09 p.m. in Frankfurt. That pared the stock’s gain this year to 6.6 percent.

Americas, Asia Focus

The plant-science unit will concentrate on the Americas and Asia, BASF said. Its sites in Gatersleben, Germany, and Svalov, Sweden, will close, while research will continue in Ghent, Belgium, and Berlin, the company said. Limburgerhof, which has 11,000 square meters of greenhouses and about 40 hectares of fields, will retain its crop-protection activities, it said.

Genetically modified potato products will no longer be developed specifically for Europe, though the unit will continue seeking regulatory approval to “maintain all options,” the company said. The chemical maker spent a “high two-digit million amount” on developing its genetically altered potatoes, Marcinowski said.

Partnerships with companies such as KWS Saat AG and Monsanto Co. won’t be affected by the unit’s move, Marcinowski said. BASF won U.S. approval last year for cultivating a drought-tolerant corn developed in collaboration with St. Louis- based Monsanto, the world’s biggest seedmaker.

Only one genetically modified crop, Monsanto’s MON810 maize, will be produced in the European Union following BASF’s plant-science pullout, Adrian Bebb, a Brussels-based campaigner at the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said today in an e-mail.

--Editors: Tom Lavell, Robert Valpuesta

To contact the reporter on this story: Sheenagh Matthews in Frankfurt at smatthews6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net


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