T he Netherlands is a hotspot in plant research and plant breeding. Leiden University had a big stake together with the University of Ghent in Belgium in the development of transgen- esis and several of the currently debated breeding techniques were ‘invented here’. At the practical level, the Netherlands is the number 1 applicant of plant breeders’ rights with well over 1,000 new varieties registered each year. This is not a new phenomenon: the Dutch saw good business in flowers back in the 17th century when vast prices were paid for tulip bulbs – a novelty at that time in this part of the world. This “tulipmania” was short-lived though. Around 1800 however, a thriv- ing vegetable seed business emerged within fami- lies that are still central in the business. In potato, a vast range of ornamentals, forages and some smaller field crops, the Netherlands reputation in plant research and breeding attracts talent from all over the world. TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS The development of novel methods to make plant breeding more efficient and effective receives a lot of attention of both public and private researchers. Cisgenesis has been operationalised at Wageningen University on crops like apple and potato; private Dutch companies have been at the forefront of the development of the gene editing technology ODM and of reverse breeding. Having such a significant knowledge base in the country helps to stir the public debate around the use of such innovations in plant breeding. The government sponsored pro- gramme to develop resistance management strate- gies for potato late blight Phytophthora infestans through cis-genesis also included a task for the university to support a public debate around the project. The project created an alternative to the currently used fungicides (up to 16 field sprays per season). Furthermore, through the stacking of resistance genes, it showed a vision towards sus- tainable resistance management. This resonated well with the public. POLITICAL RESPONSE The promise of environmental benefits of these cis- genic potatoes spurred the Dutch Parliament to call upon the government in 2013 to achieve policies in Brussels that would avoid that products of cis-gene- sis would fall under by European Directive 2001/18/ EC on GMO’s. This has not convinced the European Commission though to take appropriate action. Further technological developments triggered the adoption of a new resolution by the Dutch par- liament in December 2016: “-  whereas more and more new breeding tech- niques are becoming available and develop- ment is accelerating; -  whereas new breeding techniques can con- tribute to the resilience of the crop against diseases, pests and a sustainable future for agriculture, food safety and food security; -  whereas the use of new breeding techniques is crucial for our breeding sector; -  whereas CRISPR / Cas9 is a new technique that does not require the use of external genes; WHY IT MATTERS The Netherlands is a hot spot in both plant research and plant breeding. Both public and private researchers have a stake in the development of several methodologies and the political debate about their application in breeding programs has been ongoing. The Dutch parliament has adopted positions that products of cisgenesis and mutation breeding applications of CRISPR-Cas9 should not be regulated under the law concerning genetic modification. This is now official government policy. However, a proposal to implement that policy, created a lot of debate this summer. A broad discussion about the future of biotechnology is currently ongoing. INNOVATIONS IN PLANT BREEDING AND POLICY DEVELOPMENT IN THE NETHERLANDS. BY: NIELS LOUWAARS OF PLANTUM TOWARDS A FUTURE-PROOF BIOTECHNOLOGY POLICY 22 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM