BASF to Invest More in Fungal Resistant Corn

Peter Eckes, president of BASF Plant Science

BASF said its Plant Science biotech unit will expand its research into fungal resistance in corn in the United States, the world’s largest exporter of the crop.

The German chemical giant is also giving up its research into nutrionally enhanced corn and said it will end its pursuit for approval of its genetically modified potatoes including Fortuna, Amadea and Modena in Europe, where “continued investment cannot be justified due to uncertainty in the regulatory environment and threats of field destructions.”

Ending its activities on nutritionally enhanced corn will lead to the loss of about 40 positions and the closure of six BASF field sites across Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois and Iowa.

The move allows BASF to focus on yield and stress traits, through its collaboration with Monsanto on soybeans and corn. The companies have jointly developed the first genetically modified drought-tolerant corn, Genuity DroughtGard Hybrids, which received approval for cultivation in the U.S. at the end of 2011 and was in Monsanto’s Ground Breakers trials in 2012. Full commercialization is expected in 2013/14.

R&D activities for fungal resistant corn will be located at BASF Plant Science’s global headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, while field testing sites will be located in that state and in the U.S. Midwest.

“We will expand our fungal resistance platform into corn because of the attractive long-term market potential and the fit to our strategy to deliver more yield. Corn production suffers from severe yield losses triggered by fungal diseases, which have not been successfully addressed by conventional breeding approaches,” said Peter Eckes, president of BASF Plant Science. Both modern chemical crop protection and plant biotechnology can offer solutions to secure yields. In our expanded program, we can build upon our top-quality technology platform for fungal resistance in soybeans in Limburgerhof, Germany.”