BASF, the German chemical giant, is moving the headquarters of its plant science division from Germany to Research Triangle Park.
The company already employs about 200 people in the park, where it is working to create genetically modified crops that will produce larger harvests or plants that will be better able to withstand drought, floods and rising ocean levels.
Adding the headquarters designation will mean transferring as many as 123 positions to the Triangle from sites in Europe.
Megan Lybrand, a BASF Plant Science spokeswoman, said the company does not yet know how many European employees will relocate.
“We’ll see what happens as far as colleagues choosing to join us,” she said, adding that the company expects to continue to expand its workforce.
BASF Plant Science is currently headquartered in Limburgerhof, Germany. The company plans to retain a small staff there while closing its facilities in Gatersleben, Germany, and Svalov, Sweden. It will also continue to conduct research and development at sites in Berlin and Ghent, Belgium.
Moving the headquarters will reduce the division’s headcount in Europe by 140 positions.
A major reason for the move was the fact that much of Europe remains hostile to the use of genetically modified crops. BASF announced Monday that it is abandoning efforts to sell such crops in Europe.
“There’s a big lack of acceptance for the technology in many parts of Europe,” Lybrand said. “This is a way for us to get into an environment that really is more favorable to the commercialization and development of biotechnology crops.”
It also brings BASF Plant Science closer to the companies’ it is collaborating with, namely St. Louis-based Monsanto.
North Carolina is home to more than 70 agricultural technology companies, including Bayer CropScience, Novozymes and Syngenta. The Triangle in particular has become a hub for the industry.
In May, Syngenta announced that it would invest $71 million constructing a new research complex at its RTP campus. The company chose the park over sites in China, Singapore and Brazil.
Alexandria Real Estate Equities is also building a $13.5 million agricultural-technology research center near RTP that is designed to bolster the state’s reputation as an industry hub.
The center, which will include an 18,000-square-foot greenhouse where ag-tech startups can lease space, is expected to open this summer.
Most of the BASF Plant Science employees in the Triangle work out of a company-owned building in RTP that houses labs, greenhouses and offices. The company also leases 35,000 square feet of office space in one of the three buildings on Lenovo’s campus in Perimeter Park.