b'Tomato plants grown in the organic experimental farm in Monsampolo del Tronto, Italy, in the framework of the Bresov project. (Photos courtesy of Dr. G. Campanelli)reduce pitfalls of organic agriculture, in order to increase pro- Surely yes, says Cardi. The organic sector needs more ductivity and ability to manage old and new phytosanitary emer- research. This, however, should be open to new technologies, gencies, says Cardi. whose results should be wisely implemented in practice. The two projects mentioned are using, although at different rate and ES: EU REGULATION 2018/848 HAS RECENTLY BEENwith a different scope, advanced technologies. I think the two APPROVED AND WILL SOON COME INTO FORCE. ISprojects and expected results are complementary, considering THIS A STEP IN THE GOOD DIRECTION?also that organic agriculture is not always the same.I think so, says Prohens. It goes in the direction of providing consumers with a guarantee that organic food has been pro- ES: SOME SAY THAT SEED COMPANY INVESTMENT duced under the highest standards of complying with organicDECISIONS ARE DRIVEN BY FARMERS NEEDS, NOT BY production principles. CONSUMER PREFERENCES. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THIS?Cardi says the new Regulation is a good step forward sinceFor Gonzalez, it is the farmers that play a key role on deciding it gives a comprehensive frame of all different aspects of theabout investments, but they are not the only ones who have a say organic chain, including production and transformation, andon it. On the one hand, for certain crops such as potatoes or veg-import-export rules, both in plants and animals. Some specificetables, specific consumer choices and preferences are the driv-points, however, should be revised. The importance of selectinging force of breeding (maybe even more than farmers needs), genetic materials adapted to organic agriculture is underlined,he says. On the other hand, for instance, for the last decades, but, nevertheless, in my opinion, the text limits too much thebreeders have been working on new varieties with higher yields tools that can be used, he adds. In order to obtain disease andand improved resource use efficiency (nitrogen, water). This pest resistant materials, and compensate the productivity gap,is a clear example on how to combine farmers needs with the it is necessary to exploit genetic pools beyond natural crossa- citizens request for more sustainable agriculture. bility, exploiting technologies like embryo rescue and others.I do not think this is true anymore, says Cardi. Probably, in I can somehow understand that transgenic products are notthe past, yield was the only objective of breeding companies, but accepted, but mutagenesis, somatic hybridization, and new (notnow, more and more, quality aspects, including taste, nutritional transgenic) biotechnologies should be welcomed. content, etc., are primary breeding objectives. Even the manage-Some of the provisions in the Regulation go in thement of pathogens and pests through the use of resistant geno-right direction, for instance, limiting the derogations, saystypes is an aspect that should be appreciated by consumers since Gonzalez. This is something that Euroseeds has long advo- it guarantees healthier products and lower environmental impact.cated for and, for instance, nowadays seed propagated underProhens thinks that this may be a transient situation, but certified organic conditions has become the most commonin the end consumers preferences prevail. If consumers are reproductive material used in organic farming. Other pro- demanding and willing to pay for a certain product, farmers will visions included in the Regulation are still under discussionbe driven to produce according to consumers demands, he says.(organic heterogeneous material and the so-called organic varieties), he adds.ES: ON AVERAGE, ORGANIC PLANT BREEDING According to Gonzalez, different types of reproductivePROGRAMMES TAKE MORE TIME, ARE PERHAPS LESS material should be available to the diversity of organic farmers,EFFICIENT AND POSSIBLY ALSO RISKIER. WOULD YOU provided that organic seed is not established as a minor qualitySAY THAT SUCH AN APPROACH SERVES THE ORGANIC category of seed (i.e. identity, performance, reliability). ThisSECTOR WELL?will be the decisive factor to determine whether it is a step inNo. As I mentioned before, I think that organic plant breeding the good direction or no, he says. programmes should take advantage of new technologies, says Cardi. They cannot rely only on crossing sexually compatible ES: THE EU HAS INITIATED SEVERAL HORIZON 2020parents. They would be less efficient in terms of time and results. PROJECTS ON ORGANICS (E.G. BRESOV, LIVESEEDProhens also does not agree with the statement. Organic ETC.). IS THE MONEY WELL SPENT? plant breeding can make use of many tools of modern biotechnol-Yes, because they address the challenges of organic agriculture,ogy, such as molecular markers, that allow improving the efficiency for which little specific research has been done compared to itsof breeding. By taking into account that organic breeding puts a importance, says Prohens. Even for detractors of organic agri- lot of emphasis on genotype X environment interactions, it can culture it has to be taken into account that most of the researchincrease the diversity of the agricultural ecosystem. So, I consider made for resilience, water and nutrient use efficiency, or qualityit serves the purpose of the organic sector, he says. is also of interest for conventional agriculture. Gonzalez indicates that research is needed in agriculture inEditors Note: This was part 1 in a two piece series. Part 2 order to help farmers to remain competitive, including organicwill appear in a subsequent issue of European Seed, and farmers. That being said, as for conventional, research in organ- will address heterogeneous varieties, levels of uniformity, ics will not be successful if there is no business involvement andthe use of GMOs, pesticides and new breeding techniques no real on-farm applications are identified. in organic agriculture and the yield of organic varieties.46IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'