Crop Genetics Inc. said yesterday that it has found a British agricultural chemical company to help take its biological pesticide to market.
ICI Agrochemicals, a division of Imperial Chemical Industries, has agreed to do large-scale field testing of a vaccine against the European corn borer, a product that has been under development by Crop Genetics for more than five years.
The agreement with ICI replaced an earlier pact with DeKalb Genetics Corp. of DeKalb, Ill. That company backed away from its alliance with Hanover-based Crop Genetics yesterday, saying it preferred to develop its own genetically engineered plant that would be resistant to the corn borer. That product could compete directly with the Crop Genetics product.
"I think there is still merit to the [Crop Genetics] technology," said Richard Ryan, a spokesman for DeKalb.
But Crop Genetics Chief Executive Joseph Kelly said he was pleased to have the partnership with ICI rather than DeKalb because ICI would test and market the product. DeKalb, which had exclusive marketing rights, was not going to be involved in the field tests. The company retained the right to buy Crop Genetic's technology to put into its own seed.
If the field experiments this summer show the product is effective against the corn borer and that it does not reduce crop yields, the company can go to the Environmental Protection Agency to seek permission to sell the product.
ICI and Crop Genetics would then have to negotiate the details of a profit-sharing agreement for the commercialization of the product, which is called InCide. Crop Genetics developed the technology that allows a corn seed to be inoculated with a genetically engineered bacterium. When the corn borer eats the plant, it consumes the pesticide and dies.