BASF tries to bully German Government
The continuing thread is corporate control.
Monsanto has had repeated success in getting Argentinian governments, amongst others, to do its bidding by such tactics as threatening to withdraw investment and production facilities from the country.
Biotechnology giant Novartis even threatened to withdraw the supply of non-GM sugar beet seed to the Republic of Ireland if resistance to the development of GM varieties continued, warning that: "Given the importance of Novartis on the Irish market, this would have serious implications for the Irish sugar beet industry."
Friedrich Vogel, when head of BASF's crop protection business, openly stated that strict contracts would dictate production methods and severely limit the farmer's share of any added value GM crops would offer to food processors and retailers.
Farmers buying GM crops are already made to sign contracts so draconian that they lead Quebec's Agriculture Minister to comment, "We could be coming back to a situation like the Middle Ages where producers have to depend on a single, powerful company for their livelihood."
Monsanto keeps close tabs on North American farmers and seed dealers across the country, bringing multiple "seed piracy" cases to the point that, in the words of one American farmer, farmers get sued for having GMOs on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use and cannot sell.
The question is, who rules?
BASF threatens transfer of plant research abroad
BASF has threatened to relocate research into 'green genetic engineering' to other countries if German law continues to restrict R&D into plant biotechnology, with applications as diverse as crop biomanufacturing of proteins and GM foods.
The German chemicals group said it hopes that an agreement can be reached with the Federal Government and the science and economics communities about the legal conditions of this genetic manipulation of crops.
Jurgen Hambrecht, chairman of BASF said that green genetic engineering is crucial to the future of humanity. In the year 2050, it will be necessary to feed a global population of 9 billion. This will only be possible with genetically refined plants, for example in desert or cold regions.
"The population's acceptance of "genetic food" will increase if its additional benefits are recognised, for example a higher vitamin content or a cholesterol-reducing effect. In 10 years, plant manipulation will be just as accepted as medical "red genetic engineering" is today," he stated.
BASF's comments have been whole-heartedly supported by the Genetic Engineering Law (GenTG), representatives of the German BioRegions. They said: "The Genetic Engineering Bill will kill innovation as the GenTG makes the use of plant biotechnology in Germany illegal." The Bill especially hinders the use of modern bio and gene technology in agriculture.
"Long-term investments in research and development will have been wasted, jobs and growth potentials will be destroyed and the image of Germany as being a country adverse to technological innovations will be strengthened further."
The relocation of its chemicals presence and investments in Germany, Western Europe and North America have largely been completed by BASF. The company is increasingly following its customers to low-wage countries, primarily in Asia.
For example, BASF has invested $3 billion (Û2 billion) in its pharmaceuticals plant in Nanjing, China, which will exclusively serve the Chinese market. The plant will go into operation as planned in 2005.
BAS'Ã•s expansion lends weight to the notion, voiced by a number of chemical executives around the end of 2003 that the sector could be bottoming out after a damaging period of weak demand, high raw materials prices and the damaging effects of a weak dollar relative to the euro.
Despite this Hambrecht has been quoted as saying he was optimistic about 2004, even though he expected the negative impact on the business of high and volatile raw materials costs and a relatively weak dollar to continue.
BASF is sticking to the target of reducing its costs by Û1.5 billion annually up to 2006. This does not include research and development, which will continue to account for 3 per cent of turnover.