BIONOVA HOLDING ANNOUNCES TRAIT GENOMICS PLATFORM

Oakland, California—December 21, 2000—Bionova Holding Corporation (AMEX: BVA) announced today some of the key pieces of its genomics program in plant biotechnology that leverage the recently completed genome sequence of Arabidopsis thaliana.

As part of its new technology initiative, Bionova Holding is developing commercial traits for crop protection and improved nutrition based on analysis of altered gene expression in Arabidopsis. Bionova Holding uses leading edge transcript profiling tools and its plant biology expertise to transform genes from companies such as Mendel Biotechnology, Inc. into useable traits for the food and fiber production industries. Bionova Holding’s parent, Savia S.A. de C.V., has worldwide exclusive rights to key gene discoveries from Mendel Biotechnology for use in creating commercial traits in fruits and vegetables. “A key advantage of Bionova Holding’s new technology platform is our superior plant biology experience and extensive intellectual property rights for research and commercialization,” said Bernardo Jiménez, CEO of Bionova Holding. “With access to discoveries from many sources, our program is one of the best positioned platforms for crop protection traits in agricultural biotechnology.”

Under an agreement between Mendel Biotechnology and Savia, Bionova Holding receives for evaluation functionally characterized Arabidopsis plants in which the expression of transcription factor genes has been increased or decreased. Mendel Biotechnology, a leader in the application of functional genomics to plant transcription factors, recently announced its scientists had identified the complete set of transcription factor genes in Arabidopsis. “We are very pleased that Bionova Holding is advancing Mendel’s discoveries to market. Bionova Holding has the expertise needed to convert genomics discoveries into products,” said David Summa, President and CEO of Mendel Biotechnology.

In one of Bionova Holding’s strategies to develop improved plant protection traits, its scientists subject these plants to pathogens responsible for major economic losses in production agriculture in order to understand patterns of gene expression underlying disease resistance mechanisms. By analyzing where, when and to what extent disease resistance pathways are expressed, Bionova seeks to devise new ways to effectively manage plant disease resistance in food and fiber production with fewer chemical inputs.

Arabidopsis thaliana is a model plant that is providing plant biologists with insight into crop production, nutrition and human disease. Plant transcription factors are a class of regulatory genes that control the expression of sets of genes resulting in significant changes in plant characteristics. Transcription factors control entire genetic networks and are responsible for all aspects of plant growth and development.

Bionova Holding seeks to be the leading developer of prototype and commercial crop traits by industrializing the processes of trait validation through gene expression profiling, bioinformatics and improved control of plant characteristics. By combining gene access and genomics tools with a bioinformatics platform, advanced gene expression tools and efficient trait evaluation techniques, Bionova Holding intends to develop improved genetics that deliver proven trait value to customers. Bionova Holding is solidifying its position in trait genomics through alliances with companies that complement its capabilities. Through determining the function of genes in simple experimental organisms, Bionova Holding is pursuing the discovery and validation of gene leads that deliver resistance to economically important insect and nematode pests and fungal diseases in production agriculture. These novel traits will be validated in target crops and licensed for use in elite germplasm in horticultural and agronomic crops. Further, as an aging population increasingly recognizes the role of diet and nutrition in health maintenance, fruits and vegetables remain an important means to deliver improved nutrition to consumers. Bionova Holding seeks to be a leading provider of plant-based technology to improve the nutrition and health-promoting components of foods. Additionally, Bionova Holding is developing its trait genomics platform to provide industrialized trait development capacity to customers in support of biotechnology products and crop-protection chemical discovery.

Bionova Holding Corporation is a leading biotechnology company providing unique capabilities focused on crop protection traits, pesticide discovery, nutraceutical and biotechnology-derived foods through high-efficiency gene profiling, bioinformatics and expertise in plant biology. Bionova Holding and its subsidiaries have strategic alliances and licensing agreements with some of the world’s leading agricultural companies, with affiliates, including Seminis Vegetable Seeds, Inc., with value-added producers and marketers, and with biotechnology research groups. Bionova Holding Corporation is majority owned by Mexico’s SAVIA, S.A. de C.V. (NYSE: VAI), whose subsidiaries include the world’s largest vegetable seed company.

All statements in this press release other than statements of historical facts are “forward-looking” statements, including without limitation statements regarding the Company’s financial position, business strategy, plans and objectives of management, and industry conditions. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, it can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. The following factors, among others, may affect the Company’s actual results and could cause such results to differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statements made by or on behalf of the Company: competitive factors, agribusiness risks, governmental and economic risks associated with foreign operations, public acceptance of genetically-engineered products, commercial success of new products, proprietary protection of and advances in technology, possible need for additional financing, as well as the ability of the Company to successfully integrate recent acquisitions and its management information systems and controls.   Further information on the factors that could affect the Company’s financial results is contained in the Company’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 1999 which has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.