In my previous column I discussed crop protection. Not sexy, but important. Reading back, I even got the feeling that perhaps this could also be interpreted ‘defensively’. But the good reader should have read the concern about maintaining healthy, resilient cultivation and the ambition to play your part in the problem of plant health.
Keeping crops healthy is a big challenge for every grower every day. When varieties help the grower a little in this cultivation journey, it is a very pleasant starting point on the way to good production. Fortunately, plant resistance is at the top of the composition list for all breeders. Even higher than other breeding criteria such as color, length of production result. A good case!
Knowledge centers such as Wageningen University, University of Amsterdam and NAKtuinbouw also bundle their acquired knowledge in this area. Where knowledge advantage over the other often protects doors shut, I now see that men work together. Pre-competitive research is best possible without having someone from the ACM behind you. Another good thing!
A lesser issue is that the most innovative breeding techniques in Europe may be used in a limited way. Where these techniques were partly developed in the Netherlands, but that aside. A few years ago, a European judge labeled some of these techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas and RNA techniques, as general modification (GMO). In Europe, the door for acceleration in breeding is closed. Very unfortunate, because activation of natural plant resistance is a must for every vegetable product and thus making the sector more sustainable in order to continue to produce sufficient healthy products. In my view, the economic competitive position of the entire sector is at risk, only of the breeding companies
Where is the crux now? The reason is the decision of this judge. Although the current caretaker government already broke a lance four years ago when it took office to reverse this decision by means of clear new regulations, there is as yet no result in that area. While the world around us continues to use these techniques at a rapid pace. This week, the United Kingdom announced that it would no longer put a brake on the use of these techniques and that it would align it with classical breeding. In this case, Brexit is therefore a competitive advantage for the British. This technique is also allowed in the US and India and the first extra resistant varieties have already rolled off the production line in many agricultural and horticultural products. In potatoes, for example, existing varieties are less sensitive and the natural resistance to phytophtora is activated. The result, higher production and lower environmental impact: Better for the farmer, better for the consumer, better for the environment.
Government policy on biotechnology and breeding techniques affects the competitive position of Dutch breeding companies and, in the long run, for the entire Dutch floriculture sector. Relocation of R&D is now definitely on the agenda of breeding companies. Much is at stake for the preservation of breeding research and variety development in the Netherlands. A new cabinet with vision and decisiveness on this issue is a good thing in that regard.