Crop Genetics gets OK to make viral insecticide

May 13, 1993|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Staff Writer

Crop Genetics International Corp. has received federal approval for an insecticide against the beet army worm, opening the door for the company to manufacture one of its first products later this year.

The company announced yesterday that the Environmental Protection Agency had approved Spod-X, a viral insecticide that has the advantage of being a bioinsecticide -- one that occurs nTC naturally and is lethal only to its targeted insect. Bioinsecticides are considered environmentally safer than synthetic chemicals.

The EPA action was the first time the agency has approved a viral insecticide in a decade, largely because "nobody had an economical production system," said James Davis, who heads research and development at Crop Genetics, which is based in Hanover. In addition, "growing environmental concern about chemicals has created new markets."

Insecticides to control the beet army worm represent a $20 million market in the United States,according to Dr. Davis, and are used worldwide on tomatoes, lettuce, cole crops, flowers and ornamental plants.

Du Pont Agricultural Products, a unit of the Du Pont chemical company, and Crop Genetics formed an alliance slightly more than a year ago to begin producing a family of viral insecticides, and Crop Genetics began renovating a 75,500-square-foot manufacturing facility in Columbia.

The company will be moving its headquarters there later this week and hopes to begin producing the insecticides later this year.

Du Pont will package and market the products, although Crop Genetics might market to smaller markets, such as greenhouses. The first sales of the product by Du Pont will come in 1994.

For Crop Genetics, the breakthrough involved in Spod-X was its ability to manufacture the natural insecticide in a cost-effective manner.

The EPA's approval was contingent on Crop Genetics doing another test this year. Du Pont may not begin marketing until after that test has been completed.

Crop Genetics closed up 37.5 cents yesterday, at $7 a share.

The company is also awaiting approval of two other insecticidal viruses it is developing with Du Pont: Cyd-X, which would be used on orchards against the codling moth; and Gusano, a broader spectrum product that would be used on vegetables for the cotton bollworm, tomato fruitworm, types of bolls and mothsand the cabbage looper.

These new insecticides will be aimed at a market of high-value crops that need to be sprayed often with conventional insecticides.

Crop Genetics has not disclosed what share of the revenues it would receive from the sale of the products, which would be marketed by Du Pont under the two companies' agreement. Crop Genetics has said it would negotiate each one with Du Pont after the development of the products.

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