‘Less predictable’ regulatory systems adding to uncertainty for crop protection chemicals

BASF is launching several new products, including a miticide, a new formulation of one of its older herbicides, a new use in cotton for one of its fungicides and a new nitrogen stabilizer as part of its new innovative solutions strategy.

Each of the products represents a major investment - BASF spends, on average, 250 million euros over 10 years, to bring a new compound to market - and company officials worry about the "changing and less predictable" regulatory environment they're finding in many of the countries where it does business.

"I think we're willing to take that risk and financial endeavor," says Markus Heldt, president of the Crop Protection Division of BASF SE. "On the other hand, we're concerned about the  changing, less predictable regulatory requirements in certain parts of the world, starting in Europe but also increasingly influencing regulatory timelines and approvals in the United States and other countries like Japan and Brazil.

"What I think is positive in the U.S. is that we see science prevailing in that EPA is reviewing registration submissions on a highly scientific basis which is much easier for a research and development-based company than facing politically-drive regulatory requirements and changes as we are unfortunately facing in Europe."

Heldt was interviewed during a visit to BASF's Holly Springs Research Farm near Research Triangle Park, N.C. He was one of a number of BASF executives who participated in the company's Ag Media Summit near its headquarters in RTP.

BASF, which is awaiting USDA approval for the use of a new dicamba-tolerant gene in corn, soybeans and cotton, is committed to biotechnology although anti-GMO sentiment continues to prevail in the Europen Union member countries.

"We believe that biotechnology is a key technology for the 21st Century to feed the world's growing population," says Heldt. "We also believe to feed those 9 billion people you will need biotechnology, biological products and conventional ag chem products and the combination of all three technological platforms is a key to success.

"It's not either or. It's the blend or the combination of all three of those that will be required to meet and master the challenges of feeding the world."

Unfortunately, Heldt said, "The situation in Europe is not improving, and it's very difficult to see a breakthrough in acceptance of biotechnology both on a political and a consumer basis. As a consequence of this very difficult political situation BASF decided a couple of years ago to relocate our plant biotechnology activities to the U.S."

BASF still has some ongoing research activities, but a "large chunk of those activities are now relocated and consolidated in RTP."


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