Genetically modified products have been a bit of a hot potato for BASF. But now the world’s largest chemical company is tossing that hot – but genetically altered – potato from Europe to more receptive markets in North America, South America, and Asia, according to this press release.
The German company has decided to halt operations in Europe for developing and commercializing its genetically modified (GM) products, including its Amflora starch potato that’s been cultivated for industrial uses, such as papermaking. Behind the decision was heavy resistance from European consumers, farmers, and politicians to the company’s GM operations.
After confronting overwhelming opposition for several years, BASF is relocating the headquarters of its plant sciences division from Limburgerhof, Germany, to a site near Raleigh, North Carolina.
BASF struggled for more than a decade to get European Union approval for its Amflora potato, and the company even had to place its test sites under guard. BASF will no longer try to sell its other GM and disease-resistant potatoes and wheat in Europe. The only GM product grown in Europe will be a type of corn produced by US-based Monsanto. BASF and Monsanto have collaborated in some of their R&D efforts for developing crop traits in canola, corn, cotton, soy, and wheat.
BASF’s decision represents similar struggles faced by other biotech companies in Europe in such areas as animal cloning and nanotechnology, according to this New York Times article. However, the chemical giant is not stopping its research entirely in Europe and will continue some of its plant science development efforts in Berlin and in Ghent, Belgium, as well as in the US. It also will maintain its crop protection operations in Europe.
In the US, the door for genetically engineered crops seems to be wide open. Exemplifying such acceptance was the US Department of Agriculture in December, which greenlighted Monsanto’s drought-tolerant trait for corn. The trait was developed in collaboration with BASF for higher yielding and more tolerant crops.