Drought-Tolerant In 2012?

BASF SE, the world’s largest chemical maker, says the drought-tolerant corn seeds it’s developing with Monsanto Co. will reach growers in 2012 for planting the next year.

The seeds, which began field trials this year, will limit yield reduction that can be as much as 30 percent in the U.S. and Europe, according to Hans Kast, BASF’s president of plant science. The companies are developing genetic improvements that will have a market value of more than $2 billion by 2020, excluding underlying seed value, he explains.

BASF and Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer, partnered last year to develop higher-yielding, stress-tolerant corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton. The market for genetically modified crops may jump 10-fold, to $50 billion by 2025, as a growing global population consumes higher-protein foods that require more grains from limited land, Kast says.

Drought-tolerance is "an issue for the farmer," Kast says. "It is only biotechnology that can deliver a quick solution."

BASF currently generates almost no sales or profit from genetically modified seeds. The company will pursue a strategy of licensing its plant biotechnology to seed producers such as Monsanto, and it has no ambitions to acquire such companies, says Stefan Marcinowski, BASF director of agriculture.

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