Mutant Crops Drive BASF Sales Where Monsanto Denied: Commodities
Comment of the Day

November 13 2013

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mutant Crops Drive BASF Sales Where Monsanto Denied: Commodities

This article by Jack Kaskey for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section

The NAS and other science groups have urged the U.S. to adopt a system more like Canada, where novel food traits are examined for safety regardless of the method used to create them. In the U.S., where only GMOs are required to pass through an approval process, the Department of Agriculture issued a memo this year verifying crops created through mutagenesis as acceptable even for organic farming.

Mutant Crops Drive BASF Sales Where Monsanto Denied: Commodities- This article by Jack Kaskey for Bloomberg is directly relevant to the discussion on the benefits on genetically modified foods that appeared in yesterday’s Comment of the Day. Here is a section:

“Any GMO on the market today is safer than anything that hasn’t gone through that safety regulatory step,” McHughen, a member of the National Academies who helped write the 2004 report, said by phone.

Despite that view, Monsanto -- the world’s largest maker of genetically altered crops -- faces not just regulation of its GMOs and bans in some countries, but also political hurdles that can delay product introductions for years, sometimes indefinitely.
In July, it withdrew applications for planting its seeds in the EU, which has approved only one application in two decades.
BASF last year decided to move its plant-science division, which works on engineered crops, to the U.S. from Germany. Given the situation in the EU, breeders have little choice except to switch to mutation breeding, Lagoda said.

“The current regulations are a huge incentive to go back and do things the old way,” including mutagenesis, Wayne Parrott, professor of crop science at University of Georgia at Athens, said by phone. “Simply because, even though you may bring in a bunch of unknown genes and a lot of unknown changes, it’s not regulated.”

Eoin Treacy's view

When I was a travelling account rep for Bloomberg back in the early 2000s, I remember chatting with a genetically modified (GM) foods lobbyist in Brussels. She was representing a large chemicals company in its attempts to alter EU policy on GM foods and was expressing a great deal of frustration with the reception she was receiving from officials. Not much has changed in the intervening decade. Europe remains a market which is deeply suspicious of GM foods. The blind spot it has for mutagenesis probably results from the fact that altering the characteristics of plants with radiation may predate the era of regulation for GM crops. The result of this market altering activity is that if companies cannot achieve their goals using one avenue they will necessarily follow another.

As the world’s largest chemical company, BASF is a global Autonomy deriving 45% of its revenue from outside Europe. The share has been mostly rangebound this year but has returned to retest the peaks near €75 and a sustained move below €65 would be required to question the medium-term upward bias.

Dow Chemical generates more than 60% of its revenue outside North America but only 11.3% of this is raised from its Agricultural Sciences division. The share has been consolidating in the region of the 2011 peak near $40 as it unwinds the overextension relative to the 200-day MA. A sustained move below the trend mean would be required to question medium-term scope for a successful upward break.

Swiss listed Syngenta is also globally diversified. Its business is dominated by Crop Protection at 72% of revenues, followed by seeds at 22.6%. The share trended consistently higher between 2011 and March, before dropping to break the progression of higher reaction lows. It has since encountered resistance in the region of the 200-day MA on at least two occasions and a sustained move above CHF370 would be required to question medium-term supply dominance.

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