Plant breeding technologies are evolving, and because of this, regulations must change to keep pace. Consider gene editing – in the last couple of months the UK and India have released regulatory changes regarding this methodology.
Today, the seed industry is seeking to change the way governments approach plant breeding regulations – specifically to “protect them for the future”. The International Seed Federation (ISF) World Seed Congress recently held a roundtable to see how this might be possible.
“It’s something we’ve discussed at ISF – how to better sustain and continue to have policies that fit the essentials,” says Bernice Slutsky, chair of ISF’s Breeding Innovation Coordinating Group. vegetable. “Government policy will always lag a bit behind scientific progress, but in this particular area it’s moving quite quickly.”
Due to the rapid nature of new breeding techniques such as gene editing, many regulations have had to be flexible and subject to change.
“When most countries put policies in place, it was about simpler applications of these new technologies,” she says. “There are ways to build flexibility into a system that allows it to scale.”
One way to future-proof policies is to show how technology is used today and how it could be used in the future.
“Then regulators can start thinking about selection in the context of what they have now and how they can interpret things,” Slutsky says. “Hopefully then they wouldn’t have to redo or regulate.”
From a business perspective, this not only helps clarify regulations around potential new products, but also helps bring products to market faster.
“Product development in our industry takes up to 15 years or more for simple crops that grow in one season,” says Marc Cool, global head of seed policy at Corteva. “You have to look far ahead and move forward to see what the policy will be so you can go to market.”
Cool says this has been a problem even before biotechnology hit the market in the late 1990s, especially in Europe. However, if a policy could treat food as having to be safe and grown without harming the environment in a way independent of how it was developed, Cool thinks the products could flow freely in the marketplace.
“As long as the production industry complies with this, products can flow into the market, and you are rather burdened with the innovation that you can access, not the innovation that you are allowed to use” , he said.
Innovation is especially important in small orphan crops, such as cassava, crops that feed the world.
“If we can’t innovate in these crops, which have significant agronomic issues, then it’s really a shame that we limit ourselves to using them,” he says. “Even as a large company, we have a very open desire for as many people as possible to access technology. When everyone accesses technology, it creates a competitive environment that adds value.”
But EWB says the world is moving forward.
“Governments are way ahead of others in terms of policy development and implementation,” says Slutsky. “But it’s definitely a progression – we’re seeing a growing recognition among countries that certain categories of GM products should not be treated in the same way as a GMO, and we all know the difficulties we’ve had with the GMO regulations.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the ISF World Seed Congress on seedworld.com.
Want to know more about ISF? Check:
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Implementing a Systems Approach to Moving Seeds
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