Seed World

Brave New World


Faced with many challenges, the seed industry continues to find solutions.
First the seed, now food and feed. I am referring of course to the absurd ‘renationalisation’ proposals concocted by the EU Commission in recent times. In December 2014, a compromise was reached on the revision of Directive 2001/18/EC, which authorises national or regional opt-outs on the cultivation of GMO crops, which are authorised in the EU.

This is likely to result, once again, in generalised bans on GMOs in Europe, which is in stark contrast to what is happening in the rest of the world. And more recently, the European Commission came up with a proposal that attempts to renationalize EU market authorisations of GM crops for feed and food use. The EU opt-out provisions mean that member states opposed to GMOs will now be able to cite grounds outside health and safety, such as social or environmental impact, for banning them. As a scientist with an almost unwavering faith in peer-reviewed science, and which science has proven again and again the safety of GM products, I continue to struggle with the rejection of biotech traits on non-scientific grounds.

Biotech varieties are widely cultivated in several major international markets, and these markets are already very competitive for European producers. These same biotech varieties are safe according to Codex assessments, and growing such varieties has numerous benefits for farmers and society as a whole. With so many cross-border interests, introducing geographical barriers, such as proposed by this revision, is a sure recipe for trade and market issues for all stakeholders involved. The first victims will be the farmers, as they are most affected by the disruption of competition, including in the EU itself.  If we want farmers to do their job properly and efficiently, then having a set of clear guidelines on coexistence is crucial. They will need to be able to make clear and well-informed choices whether they want to grow a GM crop or not.

To review the current situation, Europe basically bans GMO cultivation, but at the same time is authorising the import of large quantities of GM products. If we want conventional, biotech and organic to co-exist, then I propose this cannot be done without setting thresholds.

We will be closely following this topic, and will continue to report on new developments, and will bring you insights from key players in the industry. The theme for this issue is ‘Brave New World’. We selected this theme to reflect some of changes and challenges being faced in the industry, as well as to represent emerging markets and new developments in the industry.

In this issue you’ll find articles on:

  • The Access to Seeds Index, an initiative that has met with fierce criticism by the seed industry since the inception of the Index;
  • Two interesting articles, one on The Crop Trust and one on the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium covering the exciting work they are doing. Both initiatives invite the seed industry to look beyond the next fiscal year and consider making a difference in the long term;
  • With wheat being our focus crop in this issue, we also have asked several leading wheat-breeding companies about their and what needs to change to ensure food security by 2050;
  • A rising star in the trenches of the constant fight against pathogens is biological seed treatments – see what opportunities lay ahead for the seed sector;
  • We take an unprecedented look into the workings of the China National Seed Trade Association and the Chinese seed industry; and
  • We look ahead to the next ESA Annual meeting in Vienna, with Austria as our Spotlight association for this issue.
  • As cherry on the pie, we have asked famous blogger The Risk Monger to share his thoughts in our Giant Views column.

We hope you enjoy this issue and be sure to visit to get the latest stories and news.

Marcel Bruins
editorial director, European Seed