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Editor's Note: John Gray is vice president of marketing and portfolio management for Bayer CropScience, Research Triangle Park, N.C.

How are you shaping Bayer CropScience for the U.S. market?

Bayer CropScience is the result of last year's purchase of Aventis Crop Protection for $7.2 billion. We are now third in the U.S. market for crop protection products, bioscience and environmental science, with 38 active ingredients at our disposal.

Bayer had a great line of insecticides and fungicide, and Aventis contributed a strong line of herbicides and plant growth regulators. It was a very strategic move for us as we have combined the strong base of a classic crop protection chemical company with a tremendous wealth of genomic data, placing us in a perfect position in the U.S. market.

Our U.S. headquarters are in the former Aventis facility in Research Triangle Park, N.C., with three regional offices and a sales force positioned to cover the market. Our core technology center is located in Kansas City, Mo.; our manufacturing facilities are in Kansas City and Institute, W.Va.; and our formulation plants are in Woodbine, Ga., and St. Louis.

Globally, we plan to invest 9 percent of sales into research. We are also planning to launch 18 active ingredients and new uses over the next five years. Half of our sales currently come from proprietary products, and the other half from those that are off patent. With the introduction of new products, we expect that mix to change to 60/40.

What is the role of biotech in the United States?

I believe biotech products will have an increasingly important role in the crop protection business. We are fortunate that Aventis had a very strong biotech program, and we are exploring the introduction of additional products for the future.

The acceptance of biotechology continues to be a concern though. One can only wonder how differently biotechnology would have been accepted if the first biotech product introduced had shown direct benefit to the consumer, such as Vitamin A rice, which pr┌vents blindness. If that had happened, biotech would likely have had a much different level of acceptance, even in Europe. However, I believe that scientific facts will ultimately win out over the less defined fears that are being promoted.

From your experience of marketing crop protection products in different parts of the world, how do you view the U.S. market?

I think the basic three-step distribution system currently in place in the United States is appropriate for this market. It is very efficient, with each step in the chain adding value, and it is the system that most advanced countries are moving toward.

We have a strong respect for our channel partners, and we view the distributors and retailers as our customers. We refer to the grower as the consumer of our products, rather than as the customer. We plan to work with our customers to motivate consumers to make the best value-added product choices. Our method for doing this will depend on the geography and crops involved, for we realize that one size does not fit all.

Tell us about your career and experiences.

I am a native of New Zealand, and that is where I was raised and educated. My first position was with the New Zealand Department of Agriculture, where I was involved in research.

I then joined May and Baker New Zealand, a Rhone-Poulenc company, and was involved in technical development for six years. I took the opportunity after that to move with Rhone-Poulenc to Australia in a sales and marketing role and ultimately was named as that country's marketing director, a position that I held for four years.

After Australia, I moved on to the Philippines as country manager for Rhone-Poulenc, and then Aventis CropScience.

I greatly welcomed my move to the United States last summer to take on my current role with Bayer CropScience. This is an exciting time as we build a new organization in what is a rapidly changing industry environment. Our greatest market advantage is the strong assets in terms of people, products and technologies that we have that enable us to work with our channel partners to add value for the American farmer. AM

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