Kimberly Blough 6:28 p.m., March 9
Big Swiss biotech multinational with San Diego history gives $1 million to beat Prop 37
World biotech giant Syngenta AG, which once ran the Torrey Mesa Research Institute just north of La Jolla, has come up with $1 million for the campaign against California's Proposition 37, a measure to impose labeling requirements on so-called genetically engineered food.
According to a campaign disclosure posted online yesterday by the California Secretary of State's office, the firm made its contribution on October 9.
The Torrey Mesa Research Institute was once one of the world's leading centers of corporate research and development regarding the secretive and esoteric art and science of genetic manipulation of plants, including food crops.
After years of operation, the institute was shut down in 2003 after Syngenta, a maker of seeds and pesticides, cut a deal with Diversa Corporation in which the Swiss company gave Diversa exclusive rights to patents and other intellectual property in return for an equity interest in San Diego-based company.
"As part of the arrangement, Syngenta opted to relocate its plant genomics programs, including its work with the rice genome, from its Torrey Mesa Research Institute subsidiary to Syngenta Biotechnology Inc. in North Carolina," according to a report in the Daily Transcript.
About 19 Torrey Mesa Research Institute employees made the move to North Carolina, while another 77 became employees of Diversa.
In 2007, Diversa merged with Celunol Corporation and renamed itself Verenium Corporation, and two years later Verenium and Syngenta announced they were closing down their joint research operation here.
"Syngenta will retain exclusive rights to the biomolecules expressed in plants, as well as nonexclusive rights to the same biomolecules expressed through non-plant, non-microbial means," according to a November 3, 2009 news release.
According to its webite, "Verenium evolves bacterial and fungal DNA to create enzymes that transform and dramatically improve industrial processes...through the use of proprietary and patented technologies."
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