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18 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM lant breeders have always strived to create new variations of plant characteristics to provide solutions for disease and pest resistance to achieve higher yields to increase tolerance to environmental stress and to breed new plant varieties that meet consumer expectations. Plant domestication started some 10000 years ago by farmers selecting the best performing plants in a field. It was not until 12000 years later that the rediscovery of Mendels laws of heredity in the early 1900s turned the first plant breeding efforts from an art into science and specialised farmer-breeders emerged building a business concept on their efforts. From that point in time scientific breakthroughs in agricultural and biological sciences have accelerated. With an increased understanding of plant biology and plant genes plant breeders have constantly improved their breeding tools to include a wide variety of breeding methods. The development of newer plant breeding methods did not lead to a complete replacement of the older ones. Depending on the problems plant breeders have to solve they must be able to choose the tools that enable them to reach their breeding goals in the most efficient and specific way. Conventional plant breeding methods transgenesis or newer plant breeding methods are all essential components of the plant breeders toolbox. Building on the mechanisms created by nature the latest innovations in plant breeding methods simply achieve the relevant breeding results in less time and with greater precision. A key issue not only for plant breeders worldwide but also for society as a whole is the evolving government public policies that govern plant varieties developed through the latest plant breeding methods. To ensure the use of these breeding methods is not stalled at the research and development stage clear public policy is essential. EU REGULATORY FRAMEWORK In the EU the harmonised regulatory framework dealing with organisms produced by modern bio-techniques GMOs dates back to 1990. Although GMO legislation has been revised during recent years and additional legislation came into force in 2003 to regulate food and feed derived from GMO crops the GM definition has not changed. 1 According to the Directive 200118 a genetically modified organism GMO means an organism with the exception of human beings in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating andor natural recombination. This definition takes the process with which an organism has been created as well as the product the genetic modification into account. During the last 25 years newer plant breeding methods have been developed. They create new challenges for regulators when applying the GMO definition from 1990. Crops produced by some of the newer breeding methods cannot be distinguished from their conventionally bred counterparts. Enforcement issues will likely be raised because seeds and commodities derived from most of the newer breeding methods are indistinguishable from those derived from traditional breeding and plants resulting from newer breeding methods cannot be identified as such. Regulatory costs for plant varieties falling under the current GM law are much higher than those needed for the approval and registration of non-GM plants. In 2007 the EU commission asked a group of experts from Member States competent authorities MS Expert Working Group to evaluate How Much Plant Breeding Innovation is Politically Intended A closer look at the politics surrounding the newer plant breeding techniques. By Petra Jorasch Figure 1. Milestones in Plant Breeding In the previous issue of European Seed we provided a technical overview of the new plant breeding techniques that have been developed so far. This issue addresses the regulatory environment surrounding these NPBTs.