Farm group decries BASF decision to move German biotech unit to U.S.

Germany’s giant association of farming co-operatives said a decision by BASF to transfer its research into crops with genetically modified organisms from Germany to the U.S. and other countries will be “disastrous for Europe as a location for agricultural industries.”

The German chemical company plans to move its biotech unit in Limburgerhof to North Carolina, some other research to Belgium and Berlin, and halt development and commercialization of all products targeted solely at cultivation in the European market.

“Because of this development, I believe it is essential that a political and social climate is created in which biotech companies are not forced to transfer their activities abroad,” said Manfred Nuessel, president of co-operatives association DRV.

Constant protests by opponents of GMOs over the years, including repeated destruction of fields with GMO crops in Germany, have caused great uncertainty about the future of such biotech crops, Nuessel added.

BASF had received European Union permission in 2010 for commercial cultivation of its GMO potato Amflora, which is used for industrial starch production, not food.

But in 2011, BASF said it planned to cultivate just two hectares of the GMO potato Amflora in Germany and 15 hectares in Sweden.

EU policy on GM crops has long been politically fraught, with a majority of consumers opposed to modified foods, but the bloc relies on imports of about 30 million tonnes of GM animal feed each year. Several countries, including France and Germany, are imposing bans on cultivating GM crops despite EU safety approval.

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