Crop Genetics International Corp. announced Friday that itsigned an exclusive licensing agreement with the United StatesDepartment of Agriculture (USDA) for patented biopesticides.

Under the agreement, Crop Genetics will pay royalties to theUSDA on sale of products resulting from the deal in exchangefor the licensing rights.

The environmentally compatible technologies acquired by CropGenetics include unique pheromones and specific biocontrolagents that are used in combinations to attract and kill soil-dwelling nematodes.

Crop Genetics has been testing these combinations under aCooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)with the USDA for the past two years, and according tocompany President Joseph Kelly, results from field trials wereencouraging enough to warrant licensing rights to thetechnologies.

"We were satisfied with the trials and needed to lock up anagreement so the USDA couldn't do a CRADA with someoneelse," Kelly said.

Initially, Crop Genetics will continue working with thetechnology to combat soybean cyst nematodes. Nematodes aremicroscopic worms that attack soybean roots, causing $250million in crop damage annually.

Neither of the two methods currently used to rid of the pestare acceptable. Fumigating the soil is extremely difficult over alarge area, said Kelly, and chemical leaching agents haveinherent environmental concerns, and many are banned by theEPA.

Kelly said that once economic and environmental feasibility ofthe field trials is established, the company will seek a majorcorporate partner to market the product.

Crop Genetics (NASDAQ:CROP) of Hanover, Md., is developingnovel crop protection systems to substitute biopesticides forsynthetic chemicals. Its portfolio includes a developmentagreement with Du Pont for insecticidal virus products,products derived from recombinant DNA technology to developplant vaccine systems, and herbicidal bacterial agents for broadspectrum weed control.

Crop Genetics stock closed at $3.63 a share on Friday, down 13cents.

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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