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BASF is the world's largest chemical company, ahead of Dow and DuPont.


It has more than 150 major manufacturing facilities and does business worldwide through six business segments: plastics (including polyolefins and polystyrene), performance products (value-added chemicals and dyes), chemicals (plasticizers solvents), oil and gas exploration and production (through subsidiary Wintershall AG), functional solutions (catalysts, coatings, and construction chemicals), and agricultural products (additives, herbicides, and fertilizers).

BASF added to its own catalysts business with the 2006 acquisition of Engelhard, which it then rebranded as BASF Catalysts. [1]


Genetic modification (GM)

The GM food controversy looks likely to re-ignite in the coming months, as the European Union is poised to give the green light to commercial cultivation of a genetically modified potato. BASF is expected to begin commercial growing of Amflora, their GM potato, early in 2008.

Although Amflora is intended primarily for industrial purposes - it contains a starch that is useful in the paper industry - it may also be used in animal feed, which is where the controversy begins, says Marco Contiero, Policy Director of Genetic Engineering at Greenpeace's European Unit.

The potato carries a gene, neomycin phosphotransferase II (nptII), that bestows on the potato resistance to a number of antibiotics, including kanamycin and neomycin. Both the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) have judged those antibiotics "critically important" for human health, says Contiero.

He worries that if the gene passes to bacteria in the environment or in the gut of animals that eat the potato, antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains could appear with the potential for a negative impact on human and animal health.

"Under EU law, genes of this kind which "may have adverse effects on human health and the environment" should have been phased out by December 2004," Contiero says. [2]

Resistance to GM in Britain

The farmer due to grow an experimental GM potato trial in East Yorkshire may pull out because of the impact that the trial might have on neighbouring crops [1]. The revelation comes as the Government consultation for the GM trial by biotech firm BASF, closes and campaigners hold a protest rally and GM-free potato picnic today (Saturday) [2].

Farmers near the East Yorkshire trial farm are concerned about the threat that the GM potato trial poses to their borage crops. Borage is a high value crop grown to produce starflower oil for health food supplements and skincare products.

But local borage growers fear massive financial losses if the GM trial goes ahead because beekeepers (whose bees are vital to help pollinate the borage crop and produce speciality borage honey) do not want to bring their hives into the fields for fear that their honey will be contaminated. One borage farmer alone estimates that this could result in a £50,000 loss. Companies like Rowse Honey and Sainsbury's require beekeepers supplying them with honey to place their hives at least six miles away from any trial site [3].

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner, Clare Oxborrow said:

"BASF was so desperate to get its GM potatoes in the ground that it neglected to consult with the local community and failed to realise the impact that this trial would have on nearby borage growers. The farmer due to host the trial is rightly concerned about the impacts on neighbouring farmers. He should pull out and the trial should be scrapped. [3]


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