LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany -- BASF is sharply stepping up its operations in plant biotechnology.
Research funds amounting to more than 700 million euros over the next ten years as well as a more flexible organization are intended to give a boost to this still young operation.
"Plant biotechnology is an up-and-coming, attractive field for us. It provides us with additional growth opportunities in the new agromarket that is arising from the increasing coalescence of crop protection, seed production and plant biotechnology. We are going to firmly seize these opportunities," states Dr. Jurgen F. Strube, chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF Aktiengesellschaft.
Specifically, the following measures are planned:
"We intend to become one of the major players in plant biotechnology. The additional funds and the organizational reconfiguration will help us to achieve this goal more rapidly," says Eggert Voscherau, member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF and in charge of the Health & Nutrition segment.
BASF moved into plant biotechnology on a broad front in mid-1998 and, as a "fast follower", it is determined to quickly catch up with the leading companies. The first step was to found the companies Metanomics and SunGene together with university professors, and numerous other cooperations have been agreed upon with universities.
Over 300 highly specialized jobs
In early 1999, BASF acquired a 40 percent stake in the Swedish company Svalof Weibull, one of the largest seed companies in Europe. BASF and Svalof Weibull have joined forces with their entire research capabilities in the field of plant biotechnology and founded an autonomous company, BASF Plant Science GmbH. In addition to the two research joint ventures in Germany, this company owns three research companies in Sweden and one in Canada as well as a research center in the United States.
In the near future, the employees working in plant biotechnology research within BASF Aktiengesellschaft will also be integrated into BASF Plant Science GmbH. All in all, more than 300 highly specialized research jobs are being created, about 200 of which have already been filled.
Work on the second and third generations of plant biotechnology products
Voscherau: "With our competence in the sector of agriculture, particularly in crop protection, in human and animal nutrition as well as with our traditionally strong basic research, we have a very good launching pad for innovative products of the second and third generations so as to be up-front in a field that is still in its infancy."
The research objectives of BASF Plant Science GmbH involve improving the growing characteristics of plants so that they can withstand periods of cold weather better and are not sensitive to dry conditions. These optimized plants constitute a major advance for the agriculture of many countries that are regularly confronted with crop failures due to extreme climate conditions.
In addition, BASF Plant Science GmbH is working on the development of plants that lead to healthier nutrition. These include plants with a higher content of vitamin A, E or beta carotene, plants with long-chain fatty acids for infants' food or with omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. BASF sees good market opportunities especially for plants with improved ingredients that have an obvious benefit for consumers.
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Last Updated on 3/13/00
By Karen Lutz