Crop Genetics set to sell insecticide in Europe Md. company signs marketing pact

June 18, 1993|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

Crop Genetics International Corp. is marching into Europe in its war against the Spodoptera exiqua -- or the beet army worm, as farmers refer to the destructive pest.

The Columbia-based biotech company said yesterday that it had signed an agreement with Brinkman B.V. in which the Dutch company will be the marketing arm of Crop Genetics' newly developed insecticide, Spod-X, to greenhouses in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

To protect ornamental crops, including roses and chrysanthemums, greenhouse owners have sprayed their plants constantly. But that strategy backfired as the pest became resistant to the synthetic pesticides.

Spod-X is a naturally occurring insect virus that is lethal only to its targeted insect. In tests, it has proved effective in controlling the beet army worm, which chomps away at the leaves and buds of a plant, destroying its market value and eventually killing the entire plant, the company said.

While Crop Genetics officials were unable to give an estimate on the value of the new market, Henk Brinkman, commercial director of Brinkman B.V., the Netherland's leading pesticide distributor, noted that there are 25,000 acres of crops under glass in the Netherlands.

Crop Genetics and Brinkman are able to do some test-marketing of Spod-X there, but they need the Dutch government's approval before full-scale marketing can begin, said James Davis, vice president of research and development for the Maryland company.

Mr. Davis said business in the Netherlands eventually "will represent the first revenues from our insect virus project.

"Hopefully, it will be the beginning of a long stream of revenues from virus projects that will make the company profitable," he said.

Crop Genetics posted a loss of $6.9 million last year on revenues of $4 million. It received approval this year from the Environmental Protection Agency to market Spod-X in the United States, though sales have not begun.

Under the terms of an agreement reached last year with Du Pont Agricultural Products, the Du Pont chemical company unit will be the primary marketer of Spod-X. Du Pont, which pumped $2 million into Crop Genetics to help the company commercialize several products, will share the profits of all commercial sales of Spod-X.

Crop Genetics has estimated that, in the past, insecticides used control the beet army worm had a $20 million annual market in the United States.

Crop Genetics' stock closed yesterday at $3.875 a share, unchanged from the day before.

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