Crop Genetics International Corp. has joined forces with a new,larger partner to assess feasibility of a bioinsecticide to controlcorn borers in field corn.

ICI Agrochemicals, a division of Imperial Chemical Industriesplc (NYSE:ICI) of London, will conduct multiple field trials ofcorn to measure yield improvement from a bacteria geneticallymodified by Crop Genetics that protects seed-grown plantsfrom attack by corn borer larvae. The U.S. Department ofAgriculture estimates that this pest causes $500 milliondamage annually to the U.S. corn crop.

If the bioinsecticide is registered for sale by the EnvironmentalProtection Agency, ICI would have exclusive marketing rights.DeKalb Genetics Corp. (NASDAQ:SEEDB) of DeKalb, Ill., recentlyrelinquished those rights in a modification of its 1988development and marketing agreement with Crop Genetics(NASDAQ:CROP) of Hanover, Md. DeKalb gave up developmentresponsibilities, but may purchase the corn bioinsecticide foruse on its corn hybrids if the product goes to market.

"ICI has the second-largest agriculture division in the world,"Crop Genetics Chairman Joseph Kelly said. "In essence, it's amuch better partner that will sell the product to a widenumber of seed companies."

The announcement comes a year after BioTechnicaInternational Inc. sold its Plant Science Research Inc.subsidiary to DeKalb, saying it was dropping its researchventures to cut losses.

Jim McCamant, editor of the Berkeley-based MedicalTechnology Stock Letter, called the switch a "very modest plus"for Crop Genetics, noting that DeKalb had been with CropGenetics since the beginning of development of the so-called"InCide" technology.

That technology uses a bacteria normally found in Bermudagrass, genetically modified to produce its own bioinsecticide,that protects seed-grown plants from corn borer larvae attack.

"Our whole corporate philosophy is to establish the technologyand find a large corporate partner to commercialize it," Kellysaid.

A year ago, Crop Genetics signed an agreement with Du Pont tolaunch a virus containing a natural insecticide that protectssuch crops as lettuce and tomatoes. Kelly expects EPApermission to sell the virus product soon.

Crop Genetics recently demonstrated commercial-level controlof corn borers in two of four tested varieties of field corngrown for cattle feed, the largest U.S. market, and may seek todevelop other bacterial products with ICI.

"The InCide concept is a broad-spectrum enabling technologywhich may have many agricultural uses," said John Finney,ICI's director of research and development.

Crop Genetics stock was up 63 cents a share on Friday to $5.75.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.