16 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT The private sector is mainly involved, through the European Seed Association (ESA), in the BRESOV project by seating at the stakeholder advisory committee. Some breeders and seed companies also declared through a letter of support their inter- ests in the BRESOV project. “ESA, as a partner of the project, has committed to take part in the activities of the BRESOV project related to the dissemina- tion and communication of the project’s results,” he shares. “ESA will provide strategic leadership for the project communication meaning it will be able to organise promotional and dissemina- tion activities, reaching out to plant breeding companies, man- agers, breeding associations and seed companies.” Rouillard explains that there is more to organic seed pro- duction than simply breeding. ESA members do believe in the need to develop new seed enhancement and disinfection meth- ods compliant with organic production rules. These not only help to boost the competitiveness of the organic sector but can also be applied to practices in the conventional sector. “Therefore, ESA, thanks to some breeders that will be involved in performing trials at their premises, will also take part on specific tasks aimed at identifying the optimal conditions to maximize the quantity and the quality of the production of organic seeds for tomato, brassicas and bean.” OUTCOMES AND THE FUTURE The outcomes of the BRESOV project are expected to be not only useful to the tomato, brassica and bean sectors but to serve as a model for the enhancement of other crops. Although, this possibility will have to be further analysed. New plant breeding techniques could possibly help in achieving the BRESOV goals (better mineral efficiency, higher resistances, less crop protection products). Rouillard says the ESA believes that the best way to approach this is to maintain choice for growers to use varieties developed from different breeding programmes and with the help of different breeding tools. “From our point of view, the latest breeding techniques may play a crucial role in Integrated Pest Management, for instance, via increased resistance to pests and diseases. Organic farmers have less choices available to fight pests and diseases, and this is foreseen to be a crucial limiting factor to mainstream organic production.” Several reports indicate that organic agriculture has a lower yield and will not be able to feed the planet in a sustainable way. Is there really a need for such a project? “As members of the seed industry, one of our principles is freedom of choice for our customers, as a result of innovative and diverse technologies and production methods,” Rouillard says. “It is our ambition to provide the highest quality of plant reproductive material for all types of agriculture answering the needs and requests of our customers. https://bresov.eu/about “In this respect, many consumers have chosen or included organic food in their daily diets and the agri-food chain as a whole, tries to deliver what these consumers are demanding. The seed industry is only one actor in this chain, even though an important one right at the start of production.” Rouillard believes there is a clear lack of knowledge in organic production chains and up to the consumer regarding the special challenges of food production under organic conditions. “We felt that education and better understanding of realistic objectives were needed. That’s why the seed industry decided to get involved in this project.” While Rouillard is aware that this project targets a very specific type of production for very specific crops in a repre- sented yet limited number of sites, the results cannot be easily extrapolated to other crops or conditions. A risk could be that decision makers see this project as delivering a ‘one size fits all’ solution for better organic seed production across all species and areas. That would not be the case. ORGANIC KNOWLEDGE The project claims that organic produce has health benefits whereas numerous reports claim otherwise. Is the project based on the right assumptions? “I don’t think we, at ESA, are competent to judge this. That would need to be done by knowledgeable experts. For us, as seed sector, the point of research here is what can be realistically be done in practice to improve quality and quantity of organic seed production. This is a relevant scientific as well economic ques- tion for companies already engaged in this market or considering future product development.” Rouillard says the current level of knowledge about the feasibility of organic seeds produced under organic conditions is pretty low. Projects like this can help to build the know-how and see what is realistic and economically viable and where it may be necessary to accept that there will always be a limited choice available for those farmers who decide to grow organic crops. “We still talk about a niche market of course and such mar- kets operate under specific economic constraints. From our point of view, it is now premature to say whether it is the case or not. One outcome of the project will hopefully be that we get a bit more clarity and common understanding to challenges and solutions, of possibilities and limitations.” Editor’s Note: Christophe Rouillard is Technical Manager Plant Health and Seed Trade at the European Seed Association (ESA). ESA members believe that current breeding programmes are the most effective in meeting the precise needs of the organic sector.