Breeding methods

Climate change and the emergence of new diseases and pests increase the urgency to accelerate the breeding of new varieties.

Classic plant breeding is a powerful but slow technology that tackles emerging problems, caused by climate change or new diseases in cultivation, too slowly. Breeders have been using modern genetic and physiological knowledge, or biotechnology, for years now to speed up the breeding process. This biotechnology in selection, such as with genetic markers, is widely used and accepted. In Europe, new breeding techniques are subject to (restrictive) legislation. Our internationally operating plant breeding companies have a long-term vision; this requires legal transparency.

What you need to know

Plantum advocates a continuation of the Dutch efforts for policy in Europe to enable innovations that can be achieved much faster with new methods than with conventional breeding.

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    New breeding techniques (NGT), such as the CRISPR-Cas mutagenesis method, can accelerate a breeding process. In Europe, however NGT are subject to restrictive legislation. With a new breeding technique such as CRISPR-Cas, a mutation in the DNA can be made very precisely via a snip. For instance, a potato variety can be grown that can withstand drought better, or one that is more resistant to diseases and therefore requires fewer crop protection products. The traditional route requires many more attempts to achieve the same result.

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    Safety comes first

    The safety of new crops is paramount. In its publications, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has indicated that the use of NGT, which leads to properties that could also have arisen with regular breeding, is as safe as regular breeding. The Genetic Modification Committee (COGEM) came to the same conclusion in 2017.

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    Growing urgency

    The climate objectives and the tasks to make agriculture and horticulture more sustainable create a growing urgency for faster breeding. Farmers and gardeners are eager for more disease resistance, heat and drought tolerance, etc. in high-quality plant varieties.

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    Freedom of choice

    The organic sector in most EU countries chooses not to use mutagenesis methods. Plantum is in favour of maximum freedom of choice: an organic grower must retain the option to grow varieties in which specific breeding techniques have or have not been applied. Breeders are willing to provide transparency about the methods they used to develop a particular variety and also about a parent variety used for crossbreeding. Freedom of choice must also apply to growers who do want to use varieties developed with the new methods.

With its work, Plantum contributes to SDG target #2