HONOLULU — A Swiss agrochemicals company caught up in legal battles over its farming of genetically modified crops in Hawaii is planning to sell its operations in the state.

Syngenta announced Tuesday that it is looking for a buyer for nearly 6,000 acres of land it leases or owns on Oahu and Kauai. The company says it will continue to operate in Hawaii, but under a contract with a new owner, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2bFowU7).

Angus Kelly, a Syngenta spokesman, declined to say why the company has chosen to sell other than it being “a change of approach to the business model.”

The company has 105 full-time employees and an unspecified number of contract workers in Hawaii.

Syngenta said the impact of the sale on its operations or employees won’t be felt until a transaction is completed, which is anticipated to happen by June 2017.

The announcement comes as the company is in the midst of a $43 billion acquisition by China National Chemical Corp. Kelly declined to say whether the Hawaii sale effort is related to the pending deal.

“We will not comment on any aspect of the ChemChina review to respect the confidentiality of the process,” he said via email.

Syngenta and four other companies — BASF, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto — operate 10 seed farms on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Kauai.

The companies produce plants using traditional breeding and genetic modification, and send the seeds to the mainland for mass reproduction and sale to farmers.

In recent years, the companies have sued Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties over restrictive laws they imposed on their operations in 2013 and 2014. The seed firms won their case in federal court, arguing that the regulation of agricultural crops and pesticides should be left up to state and federal authorities.

The counties along with environmental groups and opponents of genetically modified crops appealed the cases to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court heard arguments in June but has yet to issue a decision.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com