The Latest Plant Breeding Methods

The Latest Plant Breeding Methods

Further discoveries and advanced understanding of the biology, physiology, genetics and chemistry of plants and their interaction with their environment continues to fuel the flow of plant breeding innovations. The latest ones can be summarized under the term “Genome Editing” and consist of different tools like the famous CRISPR-Cas tool that can very specifically address certain locations in the plants DNA and introduce small changes (mutations) that lead to improved plant characteristics, like a resistance against pests and pathogens.

ESA is convinced that these continuous advances in science and technological development provide the necessary new tools to plant breeders to further drive innovation and develop new varieties more quickly, more efficiently and for the needs of farmers, consumers and the environment.

Europe’s plant breeding sector, technology developers and public plant science researchers are today global leaders in developing such improved plant breeding methods. There is, however, considerable political debate in the EU whether the latest plant breeding methods and resulting products require regulatory oversight, or – more specifically – should fall within the scope of EU legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The future use of such new plant breeding tools, developed and used by the public and private plant breeding sectors, and the introduction of the resulting new plant varieties in commercial farming will strongly depend on an enabling regulatory environment and a supportive public policy.

As a matter of principle, ESA supports rules that are science-based. It consequently recommends to apply the criteria already laid out current EU legislation and thus achieve legal certainty as well as international practicability in implementation. Consequently, ESA is of the opinion that plant varieties developed through the latest breeding methods should not be subject to different or additional regulations if they are similar or indistinguishable from varieties that have been or could have been produced through earlier breeding methods or might also have been obtained from natural processes without human intervention.

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