Dutch companies are watching with suspicion how the genetic engineering technique Crispr-Cas9 is being used internationally, while in the Netherlands (and Europe) legislation inhibits the use of the technique. Is this causing the Netherlands to lag behind with agricultural innovations?
Yes and no, that is how you could summarize the answer of LNV Minister Carola Schouten. She took up her pen to answer questions from VVD Members of Parliament Peter Valstar and Thom van Campen.
Substantial increase in China
Yes, because China has filed more patent applications in recent years than Europe and the United States put together, in general, but also specifically for plant breeding with Crispr-Cas9.
Schouten refers to figures from Espacenet, a patent database managed by the European Patent Office. It contains patent documents published worldwide. In China, the number of Crispr-Cas9 publications increased from 200 in 2016 to 850 in 2020. In comparison, the number in the US is 150 and 500 (in 2020), while in Europe 'only' 140 applications were made in 2020, compared to 47 in 2016.
Nevertheless, Schouten also makes some comments on this. For example, in general, the number of patent applications in China has risen sharply in recent years, and it is not clear how many of the applications have actually been honored.
Bound for the EU
Nevertheless, Schouten shares the concerns about the backlog that the Netherlands seems to be experiencing. However, the Netherlands is bound by European legislation and regulations. A report from the European Commission this spring was therefore well received.
The report states that, in order to make GMO legislation more sustainable, future-proof and uniformly enforceable, new policy instruments are being developed.