Intro to the issue
Farmers around the world make important choices every season regarding the various tools that they will use to produce the best possible crops, including what seeds they should grow. Their choices depend not only on their unique growing conditions, but forecasted weather and potential pest and disease pressures, as well as consumer and market demand.
For millenia, farmers have gradually improved their crops. Plant breeding is as old as agriculture itself and farmers and scientists have long used many different plant breeding techniques to make use of a plant’s natural genetic diversity to produce plants with beneficial characteristics. Today, innovation in plant breeding and plant biotechnology allows us to pinpoint specific changes in a plant and efficiently develop new varieties with targeted desirable characteristics, such as increased productivity, resistance to disease, drought tolerance, longer shelf life and improved taste.
Farmers should be allowed to choose between different plant breeding techniques, be it conventional, organic, genetic modification (transgenesis) or newer plant breeding methods (genome editing). Thanks to the continued innovation in plant breeding methods, desired results can be achieved with less time and with greater precision.
Why is this a priority for us
The world needs to sustainably double food production to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Advancements in plant biotechnology have developed varieties that will be essential to achieving Zero Hunger while protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate change. Varieties of biotech crops are able to maintain and increase productivity despite unpredictable weather, such as drought or flooding, and the resulting fluctuating pest, disease, and weed pressures. With biotech crops, farmers are able to adopt no-till farming methods, which help preserve soil health and mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to farm machinery use.
In Europe, 1 biotech crop – a genetically modified (GM) maize is grown on just under 112,000 hectares in Spain and Portugal. Direct benefits of plant biotechnology are minimal for EU farmer due to frequent changes in the approval system and cultivation bans at the Member State level. The EU does however benefit from the importation of biotech crops and is in fact one of the major importers of these crop commodities. The EU mainly imports GM soya beans, maize, oilseed rape and cotton. Soya beans are used to feed farm animals, and the EU imports 34 million tonnes of GM soya beans – this is equivalent to the weight of all Europeans put together. More than 70 GMOs are currently authorised for import into the EU.
What are we doing about it
Since the EU is dependent on the importation of GM crops, especially for feed, it is critical that regulatory approvals for the importation of these products be timely, predictable and consistent to ensure global trade flow remains uninterrupted. This further ensures to provide feed, fibre and fuel to Europeans.
CropLife Europe is committed to encouraging the adoption of all agricultural innovations. We are certain that new plant breeding technologies will allow us to transform the challenges facing humankind into new opportunities. To do so, it is critical that the EU create a climate encouraging agricultural innovation by applying a more consistent and predictable decision-making process for plant biotechnology and through intellectual property protection. This allows the EU to meet both its sustainability goals and food, feed and fibre needs.