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7-Business: BASF chief impatient with Europe's fear of innovation

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  BASF chief impatient with Europe's fear of innovation
SOURCE: Financial Times, UK, by David Firn and Bettina Wassener
DATE:   12 Jul 2004 

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BASF chief impatient with Europe's fear of innovation

BASF, the world's largest chemical company, may move its genetically
modified crop research to the US unless Europe becomes more receptive to
new technologies.

Juergen Hambrecht, chief executive, said the German chemicals giant could
not afford to keep investing in research if there was no market for its

"If you can no longer push innovation through to the market, the next
step will be that R&D will go. You will transfer R&D to a place where you
can really push innovation into reality, because we need to earn money,
we cannot only spend money," he told the Financial Times.

GM crop research accounts for only a small fraction of BASF's activities.
But Mr Hambrecht's warning about the danger of economic stagnation posed
by Europe's "zero risk" attitude comes only days after Syngenta decided
to end large-scale commercial research into genetically-modified crops in
the UK.

The Anglo-Swiss agrochemicals company said it would close its
laboratories because of the poor business outlook for the technology.

Mr Hambrecht said moving BASF's GM crop research to the US was not under
active discussion, but neither could the company afford to wait 10 years
for Europe to accept GM crops - a reference to Germany's long debate
about the use of genetic engineering in medical research and drug development.

"If things don't change in the long term, BASF would have to reconsider.
But I still hope that things are going to change," Mr Hambrecht said.

He said the European Union's "Lisbon" aim to make Europe the world's most
competitive economy by 2010, stood no chance of becoming a reality unless
politicians were prepared to accept that the benefits of new technology
inevitably carried some risk.

"A society with this approach has no future. There is no innovation
without risk," he said. "Zero risk means zero growth, means zero future,
means zero fun.

BASF hopes to win public support for GM with a new generation of crops
that offer environmental benefits. But Mr Hambrecht said some politicians
assumed GM was "guilty until scientifically proved 100 per cent
innocent," despite there being no evidence of health or environmental risk.

Mr Hambrecht, who is also president of Germany's VCI chemicals
association, is among the most vocal German corporate leaders in calling
on Berlin to do more to encourage innovation and safeguard Germany's R&D


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