GENET archive


7-Business: Syngenta shuts GE crop labs in UK

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Syngenta shuts GM labs in UK
SOURCE: The Financial Times, UK, by John Mason
DATE:   1 Jul 2004

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FRONT PAGE - COMPANIES & MARKETS: Syngenta shuts GM labs in UK

Large-scale commercial research into genetically modified crops in the UK
is to end after Syngenta, the Anglo-Swiss biotechnology company,
yesterday said it would close its laboratories because of the poor
business outlook for the technology.

The company plans to move its research efforts from Jealott's Hill in
Berkshire to North Carolina in the US, where there is a more favourable
business and regulatory climate.

"This does not lessen our commitment to biotechnology but we have to have
people in places where they have the most impact - and that is in North
Carolina," the company said.

The Jealott's Hill research centre will continue developing agro-
chemicals, receiving $15m of fresh investment. But all biotech work will
stop with the loss of 130 jobs, it said.

Syngenta's move, reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement today,
dismayed plant scientists throughout the UK who saw the decision as a
blow to some academic research.

Syngenta was the last biotech company to retain a significant GM research
presence in the UK after decisions by Monsanto, Du Pont and Bayer
Cropscience to withdraw. It has underpinned much plant science research
by universities.

Michael Wilson, a professor of plant biology at Warwick University, told
the THES: "Anyone who isn't about to retire will leave the country. We
are all feeling, 'what the hell is the point?'"

Mike Gale, of the John Innes Centre, the leading public sector plant
science centre, was not surprised, saying Syngenta had been winding down
its UK commitment for two years. "The state of applied plant science is
not as high as it has been but in terms of fundamental research, we are
still strong," he said.

Syngenta stopped short of blaming government policy for its decision to
pull out of the UK.

However, the Agriculture and Biotechnology Council, the trade association
to which it belongs, said that a lack of government support was a clear
factor behind the decision.

Julian Little, a spokesman for the council, said: "The whole industry
understands Syngenta's decision. The UK is a difficult place to work."
Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, had made encouraging
statements saying GM crops would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
However, this had not been backed by action, he said.

Environmentalists welcomed the withdrawal of Syngenta. Pete Riley of
Friends of the Earth commented: "This decision shows the biotech industry
misjudged the market in the UK and Europe. Rather than retreat to the US,
they should rethink the products they offer sustainable agriculture."

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Firm shuts British project on GM crops
SOURCE: Telegraph, UK, by Roger Highfield
DATE:   1 Jul 2004

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Firm shuts British project on GM crops

The last big biotechnology company working on genetically modified crops
in Britain is to transfer its efforts to the United States.

Academics said the departure of Syngenta, with the loss of 100 jobs,
marked the final nail in the coffin for GM research in Britain. They
blamed the Government as much as environmental groups and gave warning
that a brain drain might follow.

"If you are looking for a symbolic moment, this is it," said one
professor of plant genetics. "It is the end of big plant biotech in the
UK. But, then again, can you blame them?"

Earlier this year, the GM food lobby was dealt a blow when Bayer
CropScience gave up attempts to grow GM maize in Britain. Now the
Government faces further embarrassment with Syngenta moving its project
from Bracknell, Berks, to North Carolina, according to today's issue of
the Times Higher Education Supplement.

Syngenta is the largest agribusiness in the world and produced the first
GM product on the British market: tomato puree. A spokesman said it
planned to invest 10 million in a biology complex in Bracknell focusing
on herbicides and fungicides.

Many plant scientists have already left Britain and some said Syngenta's
move might prompt a further exodus to GM-friendly countries such as
America and Australia. Prof Michael Wilson of Warwick University said GM
science had been undermined by Britain's "Luddite landscape."

He said: "Anyone who isn't about to retire will leave the country. We are
all feeling, 'What the hell is the point'."

Prof Anthony Trewavas of Edinburgh University said morale in the plant
science community was at an all-time low. "We are noticing a reduction in
students wanting to do molecular courses. They don't see a career in it
anymore. All they hear is antagonism and anxiety."


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