b'drought and a better resistance to diseases can really boost the European seed industry. It is therefore absolutely necessary that the CRISPR-CAS techniques are no longer seen as GM. SEED TREATMENTThe use of seed treatments is declining as many previously used ingredients such as neonicotinoids are no longer allowed. This poses major challenges to the sector. Nevertheless, seed dis-infection is a very good form of protection to give crops a good start. These prohibitions represent a large loss of income for the seed businesses and they are not a good solution for the environment either, says Van Laecke.LOBBYINGSeed@Bel has regular contacts with policymakers at the federal level and in the regions. Van Laecke says, Besides the Flemish and Walloon Ministers of Agriculture, we have a federal Minister of Agriculture who is responsible for the food security agency. This means we have different rules and a different translation of European legislation in the different parts of the country. For several dossiers we have to talk with up to three different administrations before we can move forward.Marc Ballekens, President of Seed@Bel, together with Seed@Bel needs help from the government to monitor com- Kristiaan van Laecke. (Photo: Seed@Bel)pliance of procedures and legislation with FSS by farmers and contractors. Furthermore, government agencies check possible illegal deviations in the distribution. This task is made complex by the division between federal and regional authorizations. VanOn certain biotech topics, Flanders and the Walloon Region Laecke: It takes a lot of effort from Seed@Bel. But we have to keep(and their governments) take a slightly different position. For talking with the different governments and keep talking aboutexample, the Flemish government is more actively supporting royalties on FSS because the pressure on the market is increasing. research in plant biotech. READY FOR THE FUTURE WHO DECIDES ON GMOS?By merging SEMZABEL and ASSINEL into Seed@Bel, theThe decisions about authorizing GMOs for use in food/feed, cul-Belgian seed sector is preparing itself for the future and takingtivation and field trials are made at the Belgian level, based on the first step toward further professionalization of the federa- the advice of the Belgian Biosafety Council. The advice of the tion. Van Laecke: Today, we depend heavily on the presidents,Belgian Biosafety Council is science-based. If no science-based vice-presidents and secretaries of the various sections. Theserisks are identified, the council gives a positive recommenda-are all people who combine their work for Seed@Bel with a paidtion. That recommendation is usually followed by the Belgian job at a seed company. That has advantages, because we alwaysgovernment.have specialists at the table that represent the interests of theBelgium follows and implements the EU legislation, keep-sector. At the same time, it requires a lot of time and energy froming the legislators intentions in mind. The motivation? Keeping the people involved. Over time we intend to employ a person atan open mind and stimulating innovation. When translated to Seed@Bel to take over some of that work. plant breeding, this means the following: there is a need for ASSINSEL and SEMZABEL have always represented theirvarieties that meet societys current and future needs (e.g., the members at international meetings, such as the EuroseedsUN Sustainable Development Goals, climate change etc.). The congresses, ex ESA (European Seed Association) and ISFstarting point for each breeding program is genetic diversity and (International Seed Federation). The new association Seed@ selection of the most promising genotypes. Biotech tools allow Bel will continue to participate in these international forumsbreeders to either broaden this diversity or efficiently obtain the and inform its members about topics discussed at the Euroseedsgenotypes that express traits of interest.and ISF meetings. Better varieties means having more sustainable pri-mary production, which benefits the farmer and all of society. BELGIUM AND BIOTECHNOLOGY Accessing innovative plant varieties is also highly important for The Belgian position and policy in the domain of biotechnology,the competiveness of the farmers at international level.including the use and cultivation of GMOs, generally followsIn Belgium, authorization for cultivating GMO crops can European policy. In theory, GMO events that are authorized foronly be given if a thorough risk assessment has resulted in a pos-cultivation in Europe may be grown in Belgium. But at the momentitive recommendation. For cultivation, this evaluation includes only maize varieties that contain the GM event Mon810 are author- an environmental risk assessment.ized for cultivation in the EU. This trait is not of interest for theFinally, Belgium also implements legislation regarding the Belgian farmers and is thus not currently grown in Belgium.labeling of GMO-containing products. This guarantees consum-Each region is responsible for setting up rules for co-exist- ers a choice about whether to buy products containing GMOs ence. Flanders has developed an overall directive and guidance including those that have been authorized in the EU and have document for several crops, including maize and potatoes, thatthus passed the risk assessment. Belgium has also implemented describe specific conditions that need to be followed by the farm- enforcement measures for checking the correct use of the labe-ers when they are growing a GM crop.ling. In contrast, testing for seeds is rather limited.26IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'