Genetic Engineering involves creating foods that could never occur naturally.
Bayer CropScience, a unit of the German company Bayer AG, became
a leading GE crop producer with its purchase of Aventis in the fall
of 2001. Aventis was formed by the merger of the French chemical
giant Rhone-Poulenc and Germany's Hoeschst/Schering (including
AgrEvo). When environmentalists in the United States discovered
that an unapproved Aventis GE corn called StarLink had illegally
contaminated the food supply, hundreds of products in supermarkets
across the country were recalled. The costs of compensating
farmers, grain buyers, food companies and consumers from StarLink
losses were estimated at nearly $1 billion, and made the company
ripe for the Bayer takeover. Aventis also brought to Bayer the
formerly independent Belgian biotech company Plant Genetic Systems,
India's Proagro and Nunhems (Sunseeds in North America), which is
the world's fourth largest vegetable seed producer. With the
Aventis buy-out, Bayer becomes the world's number two pesticide
maker (after Syngenta, see below).
Bayer now sells Aventis' major biotech crops under the brand
name Liberty Link (corn, soybeans and rice). Liberty Link crops are
engineered to tolerate high doses of the company's toxic herbicide
called Liberty (glufosinate).
Formed by the merger of the crop biotech units of the Swiss
Novartis (which itself was formed as the merger of chemical and
pharmaceutical giants Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz) and AstraZeneca
(Zeneca was formerly the pharmaceutical and agrochemical unit of
Britain's Imperial Chemical Industries, Astra a Swedish
pharmaceutical firm). The Novartis name is still used on some drugs
and consumer products - these products were not part of the
Syngenta is the world's number one pesticide maker and number
one biotech patent holder. The company's pesticides include
atrazine, a probable human carcinogen, chlorothalonil and
clodinafop, listed as probable carcinogens and paraquat. It holds
Advanta (itself a joint venture of Zeneca and the Dutch
Vanderhave), one of the world's largest seed producers, Garst Seed
Company (the leading distributor of StarLink corn seed), Northrup
King and other major seed firms. Novartis' Gerber baby foods and
other consumer food divisions told Greenpeace in August 2000 that
they would not use GE ingredients in any of their products.
DuPont, already the world's largest chemical company, bought
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, making it the world's largest seed
company as well (Pioneer alone was the largest in the United
States). Pioneer controls 42 percent of the U.S. corn seed market
and 16 percent of the soybean seed market. Pioneer also produces
alfalfa, canola, sorghum, sunflower and wheat seed.
One of the leading producers of GE insect resistant "Bt" crops,
Pioneer has also collaborated with Dow on a new Bt corn variety.
Pioneer owns dozens of seed production and over 100 research
facilities worldwide. DuPont's Protein Technologies International,
one of the world's leading soy protein suppliers, and Optimum
Quality Grains are developing GE crops with enhanced nutrition for
animal feed or food products. DuPont also owns the hybrid
wheat-seed company, Hybrinova S.A.
DuPont's biotech strategy focuses on "second generation" crops:
most of these crops have yet to come to market, and will feature
food industry "output traits" rather than farm-driven "input
traits." For example, Roundup Ready crops are marketed for
purported benefits to farmers, just as other farm inputs
(pesticides). DuPont will instead focus on crops with traits such
as more nutritional soybeans - purportedly to benefit
Dow/Mycogen is the GE crop division of Dow Chemical, the world's
fifth largest chemical company. Dow also markets GE seeds under the
Phytogen brand name. In 1998, Dow formed a new company, Advanced
Agri-Traits, to coordinate strategic alliances for the biotech
Dow/Mycogen makes insect-resistant Bt crops and jointly
developed herbicide tolerant crops with Rhone Poulenc (now Bayer).
It also bought Illinois Foundation Seeds, providing Dow with about
12 percent of the U.S. corn seed market.
Dow/Mycogen also owns Wisconsin-based Agrigenetics and Brazil's
Dinamilho Carol Productos Agricolas, Hibridos Colorado Seed and FT
Biogenetica de Milho. In 2001, Dow purchased the chemical company
Rohm and Haas', maker of Morton table salt.
The German agrichemical company is also invested in crop biotech
with its subsidiary GE development companies Metanomics and
SunGene. BASF's agbiotech unit is based in the United States, at
Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. BASF owns crop biotech
developer Cyanamid (American Cyanamid), and also owns 40 percent of
Swedish seed giant Svalöf Weibull.
Formerly Agritope, the company has an agbiotech alliance
focusing on insect resistant crops with Bayer called GenOptera, and
a 50/50 GE crop development project with Aventis (acquired by Bayer
as part of the Aventis acquisition), called Agrinomics. Exelixis
also has joint projects with Pharmacia and other companies.
Exelixis also combines with Harris Moran Seed Company, a
subsidiary of the French company Vilmorin, Clause & Cie (the
seed unit of Limagrain), in developing biotech melon varieties.
A French owned company specializing in developing GE vegetables
seeds. Limagrain owns United States-based Biotechnica Agriculture
and French seed maker Vilmorin, Clause & Cie, owner of Harris
Takii & Company
Takii & Company is a Japanese seed giant, developing GE
fruit and vegetables.