Syngenta plans to transfer GM research to the US.

Syngenta plans to transfer GM research to the US.

Syngenta, the Anglo-Swiss crop company, is ending its UK research into GM crops, with the loss of about 130 jobs from its research centre at Jealott’s Hill in Berkshire. The company is transferring the research operations to its site in North Carolina, US.

Until now, Syngenta’s North Carolina site has housed about two-thirds of its biotechnology R&D, with the remainder being at Jealott’s Hill. Under the restructuring, all GM research will be carried out in the US. A Syngenta spokesman told Chemistry World that the company is increasingly focusing on developing and commercialising GM crops. ’We have to undertake this development work in those countries where we will market those biotechnology products and where we will need to seek registration of those products. The major market for biotechnology products is currently in North America,’ he said.

Green organisations delighted in the news. Friends of the Earth (FoE) released a statement saying that it welcomed the move, describing it as ’the latest sign that the biotech industry recognises the overwhelming opposition to GM food and crops in the UK’. Clare Oxborrow, FoE’s GM campaigner, said that it shows that ’there is no future for GM technology in the UK or Europe’. However, the Syngenta spokesman was adamant that ’an inability to conduct field trials in the UK, and a perceived negative sentiment to GM in the UK, are not significant drivers behind this decision to relocate our plant science research. The decision is more fundamental than this - our plant science R&D and registration activities will be most effective when located together and, most importantly, located in the strongest global market for biotechnology products’.

Syngenta is changing a number of its science activities at Jealott’s Hill Research Centre, putting a stronger focus on lead generation and herbicide chemistry directed towards its crop protection business. This will include an investment of $15m (?8m) in a new biology research facility at the site. ’We will start to implement these changes with immediate effect but we anticipate it will take approximately three years to achieve our new organisational structure,’ the spokesperson said.

Emma Davies