Creating new GM seeds or staying ahead of the biotechnology curve is extremely expensive. Though sales for GM seeds have been on the rise, the world is increasingly turning its back on GMOs and the pesticides used to grow them.
When there are already high performing non-GM crops which require no or less pesticides, herbicides, or commercial fertilizers to be grown, investing in projects with perpetually evolving biotech science and its challenges isn’t so appealing.
That is what Harald Schwager, member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF and responsible for bioscience research, has alluded to with BASF’s latest redirection.
“We will discontinue projects with extremely high technical challenges, which would require significant time and financial investment. Discovery and early development projects in yield and stress, including corn and soybean will be streamlined, rice yield as well as corn fungal resistance projects will be discontinued.”
In order to stay commercially-viable, GM crops need to have high yields, and resist pests and fungus, both traits that biotechnology has failed to deliver repeatedly in a number of GM crops. Despite millions being poured into research and development many non-GM crops prove to be faster-growing, cheaper for farmers and much more sustainable, while not inviting controversy over possible health concerns and environmental damage.
The dogma of gene editing to ‘improve’ gene functioning is dying. Scientists are increasingly realizing that soil health and biodiversity are more important than the specific genes of a plant. The ecosystem helps plants to evolve exactly as they need to in order to stay healthy. This is something biotechnology cannot do.
Plants that can adapt to a very specific location with its own pests, weather including heat and drought, soil microbiota, and even wind patterns are not something that geneticists are going to be able to replicate.
As GM Watch explains:
“BASF appears to recognize that it has wasted a huge amount of money with no returns and that there likely will not be any more ‘millions’ to be made from genetically modified organisms.
Interestingly, BASF does NOT blame its massive pullout from GM on public opposition to the technology, as it did when it pulled the starch-altered GM potato Amflora from the market a few years ago after fighting for its approval for cultivation for 13 years in Europe.
The new move comes without mentioning any of this and also does not blame ‘over-stringent’ EU regulations – another theme of media stories about the Amflora withdrawal. That is noteworthy.”