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4 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM EDITORS MESSAGE THE FUTURE OF BIOTECH IN EUROPE LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION Marcel Bruins n France in the early 1770s poor wheat harvests in 1773 and 1774 caused increas- ing grain prices and subsequently high bread prices. During the period before the spring harvest of 1775 cereal reserves were exhausted while new crops had not yet arrived. The result was a series of riots from April to May 1775 often referred to as the Flour War. The Flour War can be considered a pre-revolutionary event or a harbinger of the French Revolution. A little over a decade later during the agrarian crisis of 178889 it is again a failing wheat harvest that causes economic hardship for the people of France generating discon- tent. The common people are once again starving in a relatively short period of time. This was the final straw for the people of France and the start of the French Revolution. The period that followed changed the future of France and Europe forever. Fast-forward to December 2010 in North Africa. Adverse weather in major grain-pro- ducing areas has taken its toll and put a heavy burden on global stocks. Food prices skyrocket and make life virtually impossible for the regions poor. Increasing food prices and famine rates associated with climate change are generally considered to have acted as stressors contributing to the wide- spread unrest in the region referred to as the Arab Spring. Governments were forced from power in Tunisia Egypt Libya and Yemen civil uprisings erupted in Bahrain and Syria major protests broke out in Algeria Iraq Jordan Kuwait Morocco and Sudan and minor protests occurred in Mauritania Oman Saudi Arabia Djibouti Western Sahara and Palestine. Nowadays more and more scholars are convinced high food prices and scarcity of food leads to a tipping point when almost any- thing can trigger a riot like a lighted match in a dry forest. There have been other numerous events in human history where failing crops and sus- ceptible plant varieties changed the course of human history. For example the fungal dis- ease potato late blight devastated a staple food that fed much of Ireland in the mid-1800s. The subsequent Irish potato famine caused the I emigration of about 1.5 million Irish to the United States and Canada. Those newcom- ers participated in the development of labour unions and moulded the nations characters in numerous other ways. Late blight continues to threaten potato production in many regions of the world. The Salem witch trials in the 1690s are believed to have started as a result of ergot- infected rye bread. In the 1800s coffee rust devastated British coffee plantations in Ceylon and because of this the British switched to growing and drinking tea. What does it take for regulators and deci- sion makers to realise that enabling innovation in plant breeding is crucial for the well-being of the people on this planet With the new breeding techniques we have in front of us another set of wonderful tools. These tools have been proven safe are able to help deal with a number of stubborn problems in terms of variety improvement and have numerous other benefits. Whats the hold-up Were going to need all the help we can get. According to UNICEF every 3.6 seconds a person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of five. In the course of reading this editorial thats about 40 people With over 800 million hungry people across the globe it is time that we change course. Were at a critical juncture where population is increasing and there are more mouths to feed. This combined with rapid soil degradation fast depletion of ground- water pressure to use a different toolbox in terms of pest and disease control and extreme weather events are all collectively putting enormous pressure on farming. It is time to recognise the fact that agriculture cannot remain the same not in a single coun- try and not across the globe. It is important that we are open to another paradigm shift to deal with what is ahead of us. All it takes is a bit of courage Who will be the first politician to show that shehe is courageous enough to stand up for new breeding techniques Long live the revolution Marcel Bruins editorial director European Seed