NEW YORK — Cargill Dow, the Minnetonka, Minn.-based company that produces polylactic acid — a polymer made from corn — laid off about 40 employees Tuesday, most of whom worked in research and development at the headquarters near Minneapolis.

According to a spokesman, the restructuring affected the research and development department most severely since Cargill Dow is now focusing on manufacturing PLA for markets where the material is already being used, such as in the chemicals, packaging and fibers industries.

Ingeo, which launched last year, is Cargill Dow’s branded fiber geared for the apparel industry.

“Up until two years ago, this has been a [research and development] company,” the spokesman said. “We recently decided we needed to focus on commercial reality. What realistically can you make that people will react to?”

Currently, PLA is being used to make packaging items including floral wrap, candy wrappers, cold-drink cups and other wraps around consumer goods. In the fibers market, Ingeo is marketed as being created from renewable resources, rather than oil derivatives. Ingeo is targeted to mills producing fabrics for shirts and the home-furnishings market.

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