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What does the European Parliament do for the plant breeding and seed sector?

With the most recent round of elections in the EU over with, European Seed is checking in with the political groups to discern how the plant breeding and seed sector is valued. In addition, they've inquired as to whether the existing regulations governing NBTs such as gene editing and tools such as crop protection products should be changed, and if so, how. The following EU political groups responded to their inquiries: European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR); European People’s Party (EPP); European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL); Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D); Renew Europe (RE). 

What is your take on the plant breeding and seed sector in Europe?
Annie Schreijer-Pierik (EPP) believes plant breeding and innovative seed production are of “pivotal interest” to European food security, especially in the face of climate change, world population growth, causes of migration and the depletion of valuable resources like phosphate and water in the near future in some parts of the world.

Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL) also believes the seed sector is key to EU food security, especially in the light of climate change, at the same time the interests of biodiversity, farmers and consumers must be protected over those of big agro-multinationals. She supports a strong, innovative European breeding sector that operates from an agroecological perspective. “This means we need to invest more in breeding organic seeds and varieties,” she says. “We should protect the breeders’ exemption and stop the patenting of life and its essential processes entirely.” 

In the view of Paolo de Castro (S&D), dealing with food security, climate change and feeding a growing world population sustainably requires collaboration and innovation among farmers, breeders and researchers. Clara Aguilera (S&D) focuses on the idea that seeds are at the beginning of the food production process and can provide benefits in the many different phases of the value chain. “For example, we think of a variety that is more productive and has resistance to diseases,” she says. “However, crop breeding can also improve trade, expand the calendar of availability of a product, transportation, the improvement of fresh transport capacity or even processing, with raw materials that adapt to that subsequent phase. In short, it is essential to have high-quality seeds that are, in themselves, high value-added products.” For UlrikeMüller (RE), it’s important to support the seed sector so that there are a multitude of seeds in Europe, including old varieties. Small breeders are critical in her view. 

Mazaly Aguilar (ECR) is concerned that despite its importance, the plant-breeding sector in Europe is generally quite unknown. “Our farmers rely on quality seeds, but citizens are not aware of what breeders provide to society,” she says. “The seed sector is at the basis of sustainable growth, and the number of new varieties produced every year (around 3500) shows that its contribution cannot be neglected. I fear that sometimes legislation does not contribute to disseminate the benefits of agri-innovation.” Hermann Tertsch (MEP-ECR) views the seed sector as a great example of how innovation brings forth clear benefits to both farmers and consumers. Its evolution, from cross selection to gene editing is, “evidence of a lively and dynamic sector,” he says, “ready to contribute to Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Read more at European Seed (Treena Hein)

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