26 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM N ot only the seed trade is affected by the potential outcome of the discussions on regulating products of plant breeding inno- vation, also the grain trade has a keen interest in fol- lowing and contributing to this debate. European Seed asked Teresa Babuscio, Secretary General of COCERAL, for her take on plant breeding innova- tion and the impact on the EU grain trade. EUROPEAN SEED (ES): TERESA, FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, WE’VE BEEN READING A LOT ABOUT THESE NEW TECHNIQUES. IN YOUR VIEW, WHICH ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF THE NEW TECHNIQUES IN GENERAL AND MORE SPECIFICALLY FOR THE EU GRAIN TRADE? TERESA BABUSCIO (TB): Innovation in plant breeding may represent an improvement with respect to previous breeding methods and could make an important positive contribution in overcoming societal contemporary challenges such as the need to produce more food, using less resources, in a more sustainable way. These innovative breeding techniques also allow creations of varieties more resistant to dis- eases or pests or requiring lower use of plant pro- tection products or other agricultural treatments. Plant breeding innovation could also benefit consumers, inasmuch as they provide for reliable and good-value-for-money products with improved nutritional characteristics, different taste, reduced allergens, longer shelf life, etc. At the same time, they open access to high-quality plant varieties that allow farmers to produce food and feed in a more efficient and sustainable manner, thus gen- erating much needed economic benefits. And, of course, contributing to a more sustainable agri- food production ultimately benefits us all. In light of use and availability of new breeding technologies, the global grain trade faces new and expanded challenges largely related to meeting reg- ulatory and customer requirements. For instance, while new plant varieties developed with the help of certain methods may be exempt from regulation in one country, they may be subject to regulation in another country or, as in most cases, there remains a significant level of uncertainty. This legislative uncertainty is of great concern for the trade. Plant breeding innovation also has significant potential to disrupt global trade and may impact the entire value chain, thus their introduction on the market needs to be managed responsibly. ES: THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION HAS BEEN DISCUSSING HOW TO INTERPRET THE DEFINITION OF GMOS IN RELATION TO ORGANISMS PRODUCED BY NEW PLANT BREEDING TECHNIQUES. WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG, AND HOW CAN WE SPEED THIS UP? TB: Plant breeding innovation is a very sensitive topic from a political point of view. The conse- quences linked to the legal classification of these innovative techniques are massive. Depending on the regulatory framework under which genome edit- ing techniques will be regulated, it will be easier or more difficult for EU farmers to have access to them. As France has referred a case to the European Court of Justice, asking for clarification on how to interpret newly developed mutagenesis techniques, the EU Commission has decided to wait for the outcome of this case before acting on the topic. Thus, it is difficult to imagine speeding things up, at least until next spring, when the judgment is likely to be available. Then, it will be important to engage and contribute to the political debate on plant breeding innovation trying to ensure legal certainty in the shortest delay. In this respect, gov- ernment engagement and consumer acceptance and confidence in the products bred through these inno- vative techniques will play a major role. However, part of the EU’s responsibility is to ensure that this process moves forward and remains timely, espe- cially as other jurisdictions proceed. WHY IT MATTERS The grain trade has a keen interest in following and contributing to the plant breeding innovation debate. Although there are many benefits associated with the products of plant breeding innovation, the products also pose a potential risk for trade disruption. The grain and seed trade are having a very healthy interaction on plant breeding innovation, sharing point of views and thoughts, which is helping to mitigate the differences in the approach towards the commercialisation of these innovative products. THE EU GRAIN TRADE WEIGHS IN ON THE PLANT BREEDING INNOVATION DEBATE. BY: MARCEL BRUINS PREVENTING TRADE DISRUPTIONS