18 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM W hether and how to regulate the resulting products of the latest plant breeding methods is a debate that is not only a hot topic in Europe, but also in many other countries. To get more insight into the global view, European Seed asked the International Seed Federation (ISF) to share their insights on these important methods and how to overcome the regulatory divergence. We spoke with Michael Keller, ISF’s Secretary General and Jennifer Clowes, ISF’s Communication Manager to learn more about their efforts. EUROPEAN SEED (ES): MICHAEL WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR ISF AND ITS MEMBERS TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS DEBATE? MICHAEL KELLER (MK): ISF’s mission is to create the best environment for the global movement of seed and promote plant breeding and innovation in seed. The importance of plant breeding innovation is top of ISF strategic objectives, as we move towards consistent policies for products developed through the latest breeding methods to enable their use and to ensure unin- terrupted trade. Without consistent, science-based policies, this is at risk, and this matters greatly to our members, and to other parts of the value chain, particularly commodities and grain trade, for whom international trade is also critical. As the voice of the global seed industry, it is critical that ISF is positioned at the forefront of this debate, to cooperate and coordinate with national seed trade organisations worldwide and regional seed trade associations like ESA, as well as with govern- ments, international organisations and stakeholders across the value chain. Outreach and communication are the two pillars of the ISF plant breeding innovation strategy. Consistency is only half of the equation. The other impor- tant piece is that policies put in place should foster innovation. For this, we need reasonable regulatory systems. For example, ideally, we want to avoid that a plant pro- duced with gene editing methods is regulated in one country as a GMO and exempted from GM-regulation in another country. This patchwork of regulatory and policy environments creates uncertainty and stifles innovation globally, despite the relative accessibility and affordability of the tools. ES: TO PREVENT STIFLING INNOVATION AND TRADE DISRUPTIONS, IT WOULD BE GOOD IF INTERNATIONAL REGULATIONS IN THIS FIELD ARE ALIGNED. HOW DOES ISF GO ABOUT ACHIEVING THIS? MK: As outreach is the key pillar of ISF’s strategy, we have been closely coordinating with our members on this topic for the last two years. More specifically, we have been coordinating with the national seed trade associations, and in partnership with the regional seed associations, to engage with governments and stakeholders across the value chain with the aim of achieving this alignment. The first step towards consistency is reaching agreement among governments on the criteria that will be used to determine the scope of regulatory oversight in their countries. The second step is to agree on the process used to determine whether a product falls within or outside the scope of existing biotechnology/GMO regulations. ISF SHINES THE SPOTLIGHT ON PLANT BREEDING INNOVATION. BY: MARCEL BRUINS CONSISTENT CRITERIA FOR REGULATORY OVERSIGHT ES: CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS? HOW IS THE PROGRESS TOWARDS ALIGNING INTERNATIONAL REGULATIONS? MK: Developed last year, the Consistent Criteria for the Scope of Regulatory Oversight concept paper has provided national seed associations with a roadmap for their discussions with their governments and stakeholders. An underlying principle for determining these consistent criteria is: “Plant varieties developed through the latest breeding methods should not be differentially regulated if they are similar or indistinguishable from varieties that could have been produced through earlier breeding methods.” ISF has developed additional elements to support the imple- mentation of the consistent criteria to facilitate alignment across countries, including definitions, standard information requests needed to make determinations, applied timelines and the rec- ognition of other countries’ scope decisions. Consistent implementation is critical to avoid global impacts that different processes may have on global seed movement, exchange and access to germplasm, agriculture, trade and research collaborations. JENNIFER CLOWES (JC): Last year in collaboration with members of ASTA, ESA and CLI, ISF developed a robust commu- nication toolkit designed to support ISF’s allies and partners in their outreach across their own networks, to their country’s pol- icymakers and other public stakeholders. The toolkit includes: • Discussion Guide: How to talk about plant breeding innovation translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese in 2017, with Japanese and Korean in the pipeline for 2018. • Milestones and Benefits infographics: adapted and translated into other languages by national seed associations in The Netherlands (Plantum), France (UFS) and Germany (BDP), and used in their national communications. The infographics have been widely used in academia, including the University of Gent and the Danish Technology Institute, and have also proved to be a hit on social media. • Global PowerPoint slides: widely used by ISF allies and partners, including CropLife International (CLI) and the European Seed Association (ESA), in their presentations to a range of stakeholders across the value chain. Launched at the ISF World Seed Congress 2017 in Budapest, the toolkit was put into practice with a personalized training Michael Keller Jennifer Clowes