Last July, when Monsanto (MON) withdrew its applications to sell genetically modified biotech seeds in the European Union, the move opened the way for competitors to challenge Monsanto’s market share.As opposition to genetically modified crops has spread across Europe and the world, leading chemical companies including BASF (BASFY) and DuPont (DD) have turned to mutagenesis—a technique that mimics the sun’s irradiation of plants—to create herbicide-resistant crops. The process, which faces almost no regulation, creates opportunities for companies to grab a bigger share of the $34 billion global commercial seed market. But some scientists say mutant crops are more likely to pose health risks than genetically modified ones.
Mutagenesis isn’t new: Breeders have relied on it for decades to produce thousands of varieties of lettuce, oats, rice, and other crops. BASF today licenses its technologies to 40 of the world’s biggest seed companies, including DuPont and Switzerland’s Syngenta (SYENF), which in turn sell high volumes of mutant breeds, ranging from wheat to sunflowers, in markets that reject genetically engineered seeds.
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