Learning from Euroseeds and ASTA joint event on ‘New Genomic Techniques – What benefits for SMEs in the agri-food sector?’

May 3, 2022

Genome editing

On 26 April, Euroseeds and ASTA hold another online event on NGTs hosted by MEP Marlene Mortler, EPP. Marlene Mortler is AGRI Committee member and Chair of the agriculture, food and consumers working group of SME Connect. MEP Mortler highlighted the achievements of plant breeding in the past and the need to accelerate breeding to the benefits of sustainability by using NGTs. For her continuing like Europe did with GMOs is a dead-end road. Thomas Weber from the biotech Unit in DG-SANTE stated that the current biotech regulation creates barriers to market specifically for SMEs and that this aspect will also be part of the Commission’s impact assessment on NGTs. He invited all stakeholders to contribute to the public consultation which is supposed to be published soon and will be open for 12 weeks.

Joao Pacheco from Farm Europe highlighted the need to have a sustainable but also productive agriculture and expressed his high hopes to the Commission to come forward with an enabling legal proposal. Prof. Wesseler from Wageningen University pointed on the economic aspects of regulations in view of sunk costs and market access barriers. He also highlighted the spill over effects of the current EU regulatory situation on other parts of the world and expressed his wish for mutual recognition of regulatory decision between countries.

Mike DeCamp, CEO of Covercress, a US American start-up presented the example of using genome editing to turn penny cress as a cover crop into CoverCress which can be grown over winter as an oilseed crop between soybean and corn. While native pennycress grain has high levels of erucic acid, fiber and sinigrin, which are compounds that limit the oil and meal use, CoverCress has developed varieties that have a new composition and make it a brand new crop for the American Midwest, without the limitations that native pennycress has.

From Euroseeds perspective we highlighted that SMEs are at the heart of our sector in the US as well as in Europe. We also reiterated the need for an enabling framework that allows SMEs to use the new breeding methods without regulatory barriers that hinder market access. We based our arguments on the results of our Euroseeds survey from 2020. With 150 participants from all over Europe including Commission, MEPs , value chain partners, science and many member states representatives this event attracted a lot of attention. In the context of our collaboration with ASTA members can expect more events in the months to come.