In 2014 Parliament adopted MEP Paulsen’s report on ‘Plant breeding: what options to increase quality and yields?’ The report highlights the need for competitive European plant-breeding research, not least to be able to ensure food supplies, combat climate change and preserve European genetic and cultural diversity. Given the growing population, food supply will need to increase by 70% over the next 30-40 years, but with less arable land available.
In the report, Parliament calls on the Commission to examine and analyse the situation carefully and to propose effective and practical measures in order to meet the enormous challenges facing Europe’s breeders and farmers.
What has the Commission done so far to examine and analyse the situation in the European plant-breeding sector and what measures will it propose to meet the challenges?
Innovative plant breeding is recognised in the Commission as a crucial means to ensure food security under climate change. In May 2013, the Commission presented to Parliament and Council a proposal for a regulation on marketing plant reproductive material(1).
A number of the aims presented in Honourable Member Paulsen’s report, in particular the increase of quality and yield, the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources and to meet the challenges of climate change were important objectives of the Commission’s proposal. In order to maintain a diversified EU seed sector and to foster innovation, the proposal introduced a number of new approaches to reduce costs and burdens and to increase flexibility for operators and competent authorities. The Parliament rejected the proposal and the Commission withdrew the initiative in February 2014.
The Commission is reflecting on the way forward and attempts to achieve some of these aims within the limits of existing legislation(2) with due care to the protection of biodiversity in accordance with Action 10 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy on genetic diversity(3). The Commission continues to support agricultural research including on plant breeding through its Research Framework Programme Horizon2020 and ongoing projects in Framework Programme 7(4).
(1) COM(2013)0262 final.
(2) e.g. Commission Implementing Decision of 18.3.2014 on the organisation of a temporary experiment providing for certain derogations for the marketing of populations of the plant species wheat, barley, oats and maize pursuant to Council Directive 66/402/EEC (2014/150/EU), OJ L 82, 20.3.2014.
(3) COM(2011)0244, Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
(4) e.g. The project HealthyMinorCereals-613609 has the goal to diversify the production of small grain cereals in Europe by boosting cultivation and consumption of the minor cereals.