With an increased understanding of plant biology and plant genetics, plant breeders have improved their breeding tools and are able to adapt plants to the needs of modern agriculture more precisely.
“The latest developments include tools that can specifically mimic the natural process of mutation, leading to improved plant characteristics, such as resistance to pests and pathogens, or superior nutritional value. Europe cannot afford to miss out on this opportunity to develop new varieties more quickly, more efficiently, and address the needs of farmers, consumers and the environment in a more targeted way,” affirms Nigel Moore, president of the European Seed Association (ESA), representing the seed sector in the conference panel on “Modern Biotechnologies in Agriculture and Societal Challenges“.
Plant breeders contribute to the supply of a wide range of improved plant varieties and to ensuring a secure food supply. They help farmers achieve higher yields, reduce crop loss and obtain crops that can be grown more resource-efficiently.
“Unfortunately, the wider public is often not aware of the benefits plant breeding is providing to agriculture and society at large. With this new campaign, we aim to engage with the interested public by explaining what plant breeding is and why it is crucial for each one of us. Without plant breeding and plant breeding innovation we wouldn’t enjoy such a high quality and variety of foods in our supermarkets; and we wouldn’t benefit from high yielding varieties that enable high agricultural productivity which have allowed us to use less land and fewer inputs,” states Moore.
The future of a diverse and innovative EU plant breeding sector will strongly depend on an enabling regulatory environment. The European seed sector believes that plant varieties developed through the latest breeding methods should not be subject to additional regulations if they could have been produced through earlier breeding methods, or might also have been obtained from natural processes without human intervention.
“The European seed sector calls upon the EU to ensure a supportive public policy that enables plant breeding innovation, and to consider the latest plant breeding methods as essential components of the plant breeders’ toolbox”, stated Garlich von Essen, Secretary General of the ESA.