Apr. 22, 2022
What new research and plant breeding instruments are required to solve the current supply crises and adapt agriculture to the consequences of climate change, while ensuring sustainability? This question was discussed during the focus of the fourth "Dialogue on Genome Editing" held on April 8, 2022. A total of 17 associations from the agricultural and food industry attended the digital event, entitled, “With CRISPR/Cas gene scissors to provide more security of supply, sustainability and environmental protection!?”， which was held in Germany.
In recent years, the CRISPR/Cas gene scissors have become an important tool for research institutions and plant breeding companies worldwide. The regulation of such new technologies must be up-to-date and scientifically well-founded, and the event’s participants agreed accordingly. However, with regards to specific design, the opinions of participants varied.
Silvia Bender, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, was critical of the new methods and emphasized the need for researching risk and compliance under the precautionary principle. At the same time, she signaled her willingness to continue the dialogue on the subject of breeding and new breeding methods with everyone involved.
Food activist and author Hendrik Haase drew parallels between advances in digitization and artificial intelligence and genome editing in plant breeding. The resulting plants could help meet the sustainability needs of consumers from the agricultural and food industry. But in order to achieve this, their perception of risk must be taken seriously and transparently explained, in terms of new varieties and methods. “Every technology, whether digital or biological, needs the acceptance of society and politics, otherwise it will not be able to assert itself,” he said.
Dr. Jürg Niklaus, President of the Swiss association, "Varieties for tomorrow," which includes producers, food retailers and consumer representatives, favors a comprehensive dialogue. Consumers in Switzerland now have a differentiated picture of the CRISPR/Cas gene scissors. We are committed to a modern and science-based regulation of the new genomic techniques in order to utilize their potential. At the end of the day, rules are needed that will address the concerns of society and also offer the industry legal certainty,” Dr. Niklaus said.
The managing director of the Bundesverband Deutscher Pflanzenzüchter e. V. (BDP), Dr. Carl-Stephan Schäfer, stated, “The current crises shows that the challenges facing agriculture are becoming increasingly complex. We cannot afford to exclude, per se, methods that can make food variety development and production more efficient and sustainable. The CRISPR/Cas gene scissors will expand the toolbox of plant breeding and should be available to all breeding companies. A broad application in a variety of crops and breeding goals must be possible.”
The great interest in the event, with some 300 participants, confirmed the need for organizing associations to be open to dialogue on the topic, which is important and should be continued.
Representing the inviting associations, Dr. Momme Matthiesen, Managing Director of OVID Association of the Oilseed Processing Industry in Germany e. V., said, “Realistic opportunities for using innovative breeding techniques, such as the CRISPR/Cas gene scissors, should be realized in the interests of the sustainability goals of the Green Deal and global security supplies.. We would like Germany to support the process initiated by the EU Commission to adjust the legal framework and help develop it further in a solution-oriented manner.”
Recording of the event: https://bit.ly/3ulrDJ8
Position paper of the association community: https://bit.ly/3NZcrJz