Although no one is completely happy with the new legislative proposal on New Genomic Techniques, it is probably one of the best deals that could have been done. Innovation must be part of a toolbox for farmers with multiple solutions adjustable to their necessities.
Dr Peter Kearns, Director of Re-Imagine Europa’s Task Force on Sustainable Food Systems and Innovation, participated last week in the spotlight discussion “Innovation: the answer to a greener agriculture?”, at POLITICO’s Future of Food and Farming Summit. The high-level summit, which took place in Paris and could be followed online through social media, convened EU and national policymakers, farmers, industry leaders, scientists, and NGO representatives.
The session, moderated by Bartosz Brzeziński, Reporter at POLITICO, delved into the new legislative proposal on NGTs and how innovation techniques can play a role in the future of European agriculture. Alongside Claire Bury, Deputy Director General of DG SANTE, and Christophe Clergeau, Member of the European Parliament, Dr Kearns argued that the new proposal is a good compromise considering the complexity of the topic, highlighting that NGTs are just one of the tools that can be used by European farmers to deal with the diverse challenges they are facing.
European Commission’s Claire Bury supported the proposal’s scientific basis whilst noting it is based on a precautionary principle. “On the basis of the science that we have, it is clear that there are no greater risks with these seeds and plants than with conventional ones,” she said. The goal is to not only promote innovation but also safeguard farmers’ interests and their freedom of choice. On the other hand, Christophe Clergeau, MEP, argued the proposal does not include only technical but also political views and that the text needs to be improved to provide more protection to society, citizens and mostly farmers.
Dr Kearns alerted that Europe is in danger of staying behind when it comes to this type of regulation. In other jurisdictions, namely in North America, South America and Asia-Pacific, regulations on these new technologies are already in place or under development. In those regions, evidence shows that NGTs are not only being used by big industry, but also by smaller plant-breeders and SMEs. Moreover, the Task Force Director expressed the need to find a balance between the monetary recompense for the inventors and the affordability of those innovations for farmers.
At Re-Imagine Europa, we believe it is necessary to shift the polarised narrative that defends an “one ideal model” and focus on building and developing a toolbox for farmers with multiple solutions. These solutions must be tailored to the specificities and necessities of each case, put farmers and their needs at the centre of the debate to enable them with conscientious choices and sustainable answers for their diverse challenges.