Limagrain is a farmers' cooperative with farmers as both shareholders and stakeholders, but by 2000 Limagrain had also become the world's 4th biggest seed company, with only DuPont (Pioneer), Monsanto and Syngenta outselling it. Like those agrochemical giants, Limagrain has invested heavily in GM crop R&D and has undertaken GM field trials.
Pierre Pagesse is the president of Limagrain.
In 1994 Limagrain took over the seed production assets of the French agrochemical giant Rhone-Poulenc, through an exchange of shares, which led to the creation of Limagrain Genetics International - 83% owned by Limagrain and 17% by Rhone-Poulenc. The two companies also developed common research programmes for developing GM crops within a joint venture.
Pagesse is also the managing director of the French firm Biogemma, the biotechnology research arm of Limagrain. It was created in July 1997. In April 1998 RhoBio, a subsidiary common to Biogemma and Rhone-Poulenc was formed. RhoBio went on to become a joint venture with Aventis Crop Science and then Bayer Crop Science.
According to a report on Limagrain's innovation strategy, 'At the same time that it created Biogemma, Limagrain also made the strategic decision to concentrate on biotechnology and agro-industrial activities, and to dedicate all its resources towards this goal.' (emphasis added)
The report also notes:
'biotechnology is one of the central themes for the company; and mastering biotechnology is seen as necessary if the group is to keep its identity and independence... resources, such as the company's capacity for research and development, are [therefore] earmarked for biotechnology.'
The report identifies as a key challenge to this strategy: 'the acceptability of GMOs'. It also notes that 'ironically' investment in genomics 'may provide a way to avoid transgenic methods altogether delivering it from the current controversy'. Under the leadership of Pierre Pagesse, however, rather than controversy being sidestepped, it has been embraced.