26 July 2018
|The European Union (EU) Court of Justice ruling overnight that plants resulting from some of the latest plant breeding innovations, including gene editing techniques such as CRISPR, are considered genetic modification has no basis in scientific evidence and has significant negative implications for plant breeding and farming.
Mr Matthew Cossey, Chief Executive Officer of the national peak organisation for Australia’s plant science sector, CropLife Australia, today said “the decision by the EU Court of Justice highlights the ridiculousness of EU regulations on plant breeding and should be the trigger for the EU to finally clarify the regulation of plant breeding innovations based on scientific evidence and facts, not extreme anti-science agendas. As it stands, this decision will send European agriculture back into the dark ages.”
“This ruling is a clear signal to the Australian Government to ensure that Australia’s regulations of these plant breeding innovations are based on evidence and science, not on the bizarre, luddite opinions of European activist organisations.”
“This decision provides nothing but regulatory uncertainty and places a handbrake on crucial global research on gene-edited crops that was working towards improvements in food crop nutrition, crop ability to cope with changing climate conditions and increased farming yields.”
“Europe has some of the most fertile and productive agricultural land yet is one of the world’s largest importers of food and animal feed. It is time Europe genuinely commits to contributing to global food nutrition and security, and to do anything else is morally reprehensible when global food nutrition and security remains such a significant challenge.”
“The ruling is based almost entirely on the breeding process and the technology involved rather than the final outcome of the process and flies in the face of the recently stated opinion of the EU Advocate General. It is also at odds with decisions and interpretations made elsewhere in the world, including Australia, US, South America and Israel.”
“This interpretation should not be followed by governments wishing to facilitate access to innovation by their local seed industry and farmers. It is crucial that Australia’s plant science researchers in both the public and private sectors can have access to these methods. This will be key if Australia is to capitalise on the significant nutritional, environmental and productivity benefits that these latest breeding methods will deliver,” said Mr Cossey.
“The latest plant breeding innovations like genome editing are easier and faster and can help to more efficiently develop plant varieties that have a reduced need for inputs. The latest innovations can also dramatically improve the efficiency of breeding programs and help achieve results in a much more targeted manner.”
“Now, more than ever, it is critical that the Australian Government adopt pro-innovation policies so that Australian farmers have access to the latest tools and technologies to remain internationally competitive and sustainably feed a growing population,” concluded Mr Cossey.