CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—The former director of the Plant Breeding Institute here has endorsed the government’s selection of Unilever as the new owner of the facility.

The sale of the PBI and the National Seed Development Organization is part of Prime Minister Thatcher’s strategy to privatize many government-owned companies and institutions. The PBI is the country’s major institute for research on plant breeding, and the NSDO earned nearly $7 million last year by marketing seeds from varieties bred at the PBI.

Unilever last month announced that it would buy the facilities for roughly $100 million, as of September 30. Its proposal topped bids from Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and the food group Booker.

A number of senior staff have left PBI since the government decided in May to sell the facilities. They feared that the sale would choke off a tradition of basic research and replace it with projects aimed at short-term...

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