AS EU RENEWING ITS SEED LEGISLATION: NOT SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

Developments in recent years in environment, biodiversity, nutritional values of foods and climate change lead EU to rethink on food safety and security and they have been found strategically important. Actually a sector with €750 billion turnover annually (just value of crops grown in the EU is €205 billion) and 48 million employees deserves such an attempt, especially in a harsh competition condition of the new agri-food market. Therefore European Commission is adopting a package of measures to strengthen the enforcement of health and safety standards for the whole agri-food chain (more detail).   Commission’s main objective is preparation of landmark package to modernize simplify and strengthen EU’s food issue with a slogan “Smarter rules for safer food”.

Number of existing regulation on these theme are 70 and commission is going to reduce it to 5. One of this will be on “SEED” which will be converted as expression to “PLANT REPRODUCTİVE MATERIAL” (PRM). Actually 12 basic Council Directives had been developed by EU on seed since the 1960s. They were on authorization for specific marketing requirements for different species like cereal, beet, and fiber plant etc. seeds (more detail).

Again, such attempts aim to keep EU competitive in global agri-food market. The other important objectives are: To assure the health and high quality of PRM; to provide a single regulatory framework to support sustainable production, biodiversity, adaptation to climate change and to contribute to food security and poverty alleviation, to ensure a level playing field through simplified, harmonized rules, to reduce unnecessary costs (yearly total variety registration cost €60-70 million) and administrative burden and increase flexibility , to align PRM legislation with other recent Union strategies, to foster market access for innovation in plant breeding.  On the other hand council is waiting with the new law, a system change, in order to be fit for the changing economic, environmental, social, scientific circumstances, simplification of the basic legal acts (from 12 Directives to one Regulation), cost recovery and improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of the system, horizontal coordination with recent, already adopted EU policies.

One of the other targets is encouraging SMEs and micro-enterprises, especially in order to ensure access for these enterprises to public services for the execution of certain tasks they cannot perform themselves and to support and further develop their flexibility to gain improved access to the PRM market. THERE you may think: Did EU enough to provide necessary genetic material, line to small holder seed firms by its public services? How EU public agricultural institution harmonizing? Couldn’t be a Europe wide coordinated agricultural research established? What does USA do in this respect? What was the purpose of assigning one of public body for each cultivated plant responsibility? What is doing BRIC countries for plant breeding? How universities have been not left beside for such important issue? Why in one of the sub committee of D20’s is suggested: “agricultural research should gain priorities”?

Now back to the title: The main target is competing in agri-food market. The world seed market value was around $US 50 billion in 2011. $US 37 billion (%74) was commercial and the rest (%26) was for producer’s own use (non-commercial seed). %26 of total amount ($US 50 billion) namely 13,2  $US billion belongs to transgenic seed, whereas %48 is standard seed (see figure). It may be assumed that %36 of commercial seed is bioengineered one. Expanding transgenic crop areas yearly %10 has reached it to 170 million hectare in 2013. It means that transgenic seed demand will increase as well, whereas no one EU citizen producer will not benefit of its plusses at all. Oppositely they will lose their customers. Looses, rising due to not accepting GMO’s in EU has been documented clearly in a Turkish blog with figures. Unavoidably one may say: EU could not see the forest for the tree!

EASAC (European Academies Science Advisory Council) suggests that “a radical reform of GMO legislation is now warranted. The slow and unpredictable pace of GM crop regulatory approval and commercialization is harming European research and development both private and public. This is weakening the capacity of the EU to develop solutions for its own agricultural needs and to tackle global challenges. Instead of exporting advanced seed and new agricultural technologies the EU is, in effect, exporting qualified researchers. The aim must be to redirect its focus from technology to product regulation as a goal, and to risk–benefit rather than risk alone”.

EU should follow BRIC countries closely in bioeconomic investments. How intensive did they invest to biotechnology can be observed here. Late attack of Russia has started in 2012 with Putin’s announcement: 200 billion ruble for agri-food biotechnology research for the period of 2012-2020[1]

Nazimi Açıkgöz

 

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