30 October 1998

BASFs five-year GM crop target

CHEMICAL giant BASF has launched a catch-up strategy to produce genetically modified crops within five years.

The company had previously insisted its future lay in conventional chemistry. But the U-turn follows a severe slump in herbicide sales in North America this year due to a huge rise in the area of herbicide tolerant soya.

Spending is to top £36m (DM100m) a year for the next five years to produce the companys first commercial GM crop by 2003, says BASFs Friedrich Vogel. Soaring sales of strobilurin fungicides throughout Europe will finance the fast track project.

Significant commercial acquisitions are also planned, at the right price. "We are not on a shopping trip, but we are keeping our eyes open," said Dr Vogel.

Vitamin production, nutritional benefits and agronomic traits rather than pesticide tolerance are the companys goals. Crops for use by BASFs animal nutrition business could be one of the first to benefit from the new research, he added.

Technological advances will make it easier for the company to catch up, he insisted. &#42