Plant breeding is a game changer for sustainable agriculture, new study shows

May 17, 2021

Plant breeding innovation


Plant breeding

Press release

Brussels, 17 May 2021, 13.00

New study by HFFA Research GmbH demonstrates that plant breeding in the European Union drives socio-economic and environmental sustainability and can partially compensate production losses potentially resulting from the implementation of the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

Cover of the HFFA Research GmbH study

In the context of population growth, climate change, and new demands and expectations raised for farmers and the whole agri-food system as part of the EU’s Green Deal and its Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, the Euroseeds commissioned study confirms the high value of plant breeding in the EU, and the need for an innovation-enabling legal framework.

In an ex-post assessment of the various impacts of plant breeding in the EU in the past two decades, the study shows that plant breeding has strongly contributed to increased yields and production in arable farming, and subsequently to improved market and trade conditions, increased food availability, higher economic prosperity, additional farm income while avoiding additional land use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and loss of biodiversity.

The study also provides an ex-ante assessment, looking forward and seeking to analyse the potential effects of plant breeding until 2030 and 2040 in light of the implementation of the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Here, it calculates that the full implementation of the two strategies would potentially result in a reduction of agricultural crop production of more than 20%.

Besides an EU-level based calculation, the research paper also includes country specific data for Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK.

Plant breeding has significantly contributed to improving the economic situation of agriculture and reducing its environmental footprint in the past. In the future and especially considering the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies of the EU, plant breeding can partially compensate for potential non-intended economic and environmental effects of these strategies, thus supporting their overall objectives. This compensatory effect would be significantly improved by increased investments in innovative plant breeding and the availability of appropriate breeding methods,” affirms Dr. Steffen Noleppa, Managing Director at HFFA Research and lead author of the study.

With this study it becomes evident that plant breeding has the potential to be a game changer for increased sustainability of European agri-food production and the preservation of biodiversity. However, only with a policy and regulatory framework that fully embraces the uptake of plant breeding innovation, the EU can unlock the potential of its possible contribution. This is why, upon publication of the Commission study on Novel Genomic Techniques, Euroseeds calls for an urgent action to bring its more than 20-year-old legislation in line with scientific progress,” concludes Garlich von Essen, Secretary General at Euroseeds.

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