On Wednesday, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament approved a proposal on the acceptance of plants obtained with new breeding techniques. This was very pleasing for VVD MEP Jan Huitema. “Technologies like these, including Crispr-Cas, are crucial to the transition to a sustainable, future-proof agricultural sector,” he says.
“It significantly accelerates the traditional breeding process, allowing crops resistant to extreme weather conditions, common diseases and pests to be developed in the short term.”
Heitema: “Plants obtained with new breeding techniques are being accepted in due course. The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly tangible for European farmers, putting our food security under pressure. At the same time, we see breeding companies moving abroad, because until now they stand “Tough European legislation is in the way of innovation. Today's positive voting results mean this will change quickly. A very optimistic sign.”
Heitema focused on three points during the negotiations. “First of all, crops obtained with these techniques are regulated more flexibly than with traditional genetically modified organisms (GMOs).” The important difference is that plants obtained with new breeding techniques can also arise in nature or by traditional breeding methods. GMOs cannot do this, so they must be tested more rigorously regarding, for example, environmental impact. More flexible legislation for new breeding techniques would provide a decisive boost to innovation in the European biotechnology sector.
In addition, Heitema emphasized the connection with the Green Deal: the development of plants with new breeding techniques should not be an end in itself, but a means to ensure our food security in times of climate change and environmental pollution. Heitema: 'For example, the focus is on developing plants that are, for example, more resistant to drought, or can tolerate periods of extreme humidity better. For example, the use of crop protection products could also be reduced because some resistance types can be bred.'
Finally, he believes it is essential that these plants and seeds remain accessible to farmers and small breeders. “That is why Parliament spoke with great unanimity against the possibility of patenting plants obtained with new breeding techniques.”
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