EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 27 ES: IN YOUR VIEW, SHOULD THE PRODUCTS OF SUCH TECHNIQUES BE ALLOWED ON THE MARKET AND UNDER WHICH CONDITIONS? TB: COCERAL supports science and innovation and believes that innovative tools must be accessible to farmers and producers in a level playing field, in the EU as well as in Third World countries. Nonetheless, any plant variety bred through these innova- tive techniques placed on the EU market must be safe and must not pose risks to human and animal health or to the environ- ment. Thus, the conditions under which the products derived should be marketed, depend on the degree of risk, if any, posed by the end product. A regulatory approach that would require pre-market approval should therefore be limited only to those cases where health concerns at stake are high enough to require prior scru- tiny by a food safety agency. ES: WHAT WILL BE THE IMPACT FOR THE EU GRAIN TRADE OF REGULATING THESE NEW TECHNIQUES IN THE SAME WAY AS GMO’S? TB: If these new techniques were to be indistinctively subject to GMOs regulation - we are told that - a big portion of the EU plant breeding companies, which are the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) would be excluded from applying these tools and would exclude the application of innovative breeding techniques for plants other than the major crops (e.g., maize and soybeans). In addition, SMEs would likely not be able to withstand the competition from non-EU companies able to use these techniques without the constraints of any GM legislation and therefore have a lower cost base. Overall, this would have a substantial negative impact on jobs, research and economic growth in the EU. Moreover, and importantly from a competitive standpoint, many of those applications lead to plant materials that, to date, cannot be identified and distinguished from their counterparts obtained by conventional breeding. If considered equivalent to GMOs, the impossibility to distinguish products derived from most innovative breeding techniques from those obtained through conventional breeding would lead to important prob- lems of enforcement and implementation that would seriously impact trade. ES: AT THE MOMENT WE ARE SEEING A DIVERGENCE BETWEEN COUNTRIES IN HOW THEY REGULATE THESE NEW TECHNIQUES. WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS OF SUCH AN APPROACH, AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE? TB: Regulatory coherence around the world is of paramount importance to enable trade to work efficiently, without facing hurdles. Regrettably, we are indeed witnessing the divergences in the legal approach towards these innovative techniques around the world, which is of a great concern for the grain trade sector due to the intrinsic characteristics of the bulk commodities way of operating. Indeed, the trade in grains and oil- seeds is tied inextricably to global sourcing to achieve a sustainable supply of these basic commodities. To secure the good functioning of trade and the full enjoy- ment of the economic and social benefits accruing from trade flows, COCERAL is working with its global counterpart the International Grain Trade Coalition (IGTC) to encourage regulators across the globe to come together on predictable, coherent and harmonised regulatory approaches to plant breeding innovations. ES: THE PLANT BREEDING AND SEED TRADE SECTOR HAS ALSO BEEN VERY ACTIVE IN THIS DEBATE. HOW IS THE INTERACTION BETWEEN GRAIN AND SEED TRADE? TB: Grain and seed trade are having a very healthy interac- tion on plant breeding innovation, sharing point of views and thoughts since many months now. The trade needs to be aware of the use of such plant breeding innovation methods to be able to respond to commercial requirements in order to efficiently and cost-effectively market and use resulting products. Breeding and seed companies that are implementing plant breeding inno- vation methods are best placed to provide accurate information, at the start of the value chain to identify and mitigate any risks related to marketability and public acceptance, and to avoid trade disruption. There is an ongoing and positive dialogue, aimed at understanding the specific trade needs and collabo- rating to identify, discuss and implement pragmatic, achievable and effective information-sharing solutions. ES: ARE THERE ANY POINTS OF DIFFERENTIATION BETWEEN THE GRAIN TRADE AND THE SEED TRADE. HOW COULD THESE DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW BE AMENDED? TB: The constant and positive dialogue that the two sectors have started, both at European and at global level, is helping to miti- gate the differences in the approach towards the commercialisa- tion of these innovative products. Some milestones have already been reached but it’s fundamental that the dialogue goes on, in order to find a feasible point of alignment. This is the trade sector hope and the seed sector is committed to collaborate on this. Editor’s Note: COCERAL is the European association of trade in cereals, rice, feedstuffs, oilseeds, olive oil, oils and fats and agro-supply. The organization represents the interests of the European collectors, traders, importers, exporters and port silo storekeepers of the above-mentioned agricultural products. With about 3,500 companies as part of COCERAL national members, the sector trades agricultural raw mate- rials destined to the supply of the food and feed chains, as well as for technical and energy uses. TERESA BABUSCIO