Seed World

Separate Mutation from Modification: EU Farmers Need Plant Breeding Innovation More Than Ever

Every year, farmers are more restricted in the use of plant protection products. The EU’s lack of approval of new or old plant protection products is creating an ever-growing problem for farmers, preventing them to produce enough plant products and, especially, of the required quality. And the most problematic issue in this whole debate is the resistance to pesticides, which can be a fatal problem for food production as a whole.


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Some of the pesticides can be replaced with alternatives, such as mechanical weed control.

However, especially with fungal diseases and insect attacks there is no alternative to relevant pesticides at the moment. And this is why COPA and COGECA are very focused on the fact that all plant breeders in the EU put every effort into faster and better breeding of new plant varieties.


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It is crucial that plant breeders in the EU get access to all the necessary plant breeding technologies, which are sometimes referred to as new breeding techniques. Normally it takes 12-15 years to breed a new variety, and that comes with the enormous uncertainty resulting from conventional processing techniques. With these challenges, it is clear that EU farmers cannot wait for this. New plant breeding methods, especially those based on mutation methods, must become available for breeding immediately, as it is the plant’s own DNA that is being worked on, and must therefore obviously be excluded from the EU GMO Directive.


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By doing this, a new variety using the latest plant breeding methods which involve mutation must then only undergo a normal variety testing by the relevant EU authorities. COPA and COGECA are also very adamant that these new plant varieties should in no way contain any patents at all.

If the EU takes this step in the spring of 2018, we have a chance to supply enough food to the EU’s population without any risk in the future, and in particular, no further monopoly of the rights to our plants.

It is essential that all plant breeders have free access to the breeding material, so that all small and medium-sized breeders in the EU can freely breed into a free market. Small breeders creating locally adapted varieties, for small cultivated areas with special climatic conditions, are crucial if farmers in these climate zones want to survive.

To achieve any progress in the discussion on the latest breeding methods, it is vital that we make a separation between MUTATION and MODIFICATION. In the view of COPA and COGECA we can tackle the discussion about modification in the new breeding methods at a later stage.

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Editor’s Note: Thor Gunnar Kofoed is Chairman of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council Seed Section, the Danish Seed Council, the COPA and COGECA WP on Seeds and the European Seed Growers Group