Economic Mission -Key theme 7: Plant Breeding

The Economic Mission during the State Visit of Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima focuses on 8 important- and innovative sectors. Within these sectors we see opportunities to reinforce the French-Dutch collaboration. During our countdown to the Economic Mission, we will briefly discuss the 8 key sectors and the relevance of these sectors for both the Netherlands and France. This week we’ll take a closer look at “Plant breeding”.

Plant breeding is innovative par excellence! About 15% of the turnover is invested in R&D and very few other sectors are that much focused on innovation as the plant breeding sector. This sector provides fundamental contributions to sustainable agriculture  and facilitates feeding of 9 billion people. Furthermore, the sector is part of the solution to address the challenge of climate change, by developing a more resilient agriculture. In Europe a number of countries are leading in the breeding sector, in particular France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The sector can only sustain the high level of investment in innovation if the results of their breeding work is sufficiently protected and thus ensuring that investments are recovered. At the same time it is essential that breeding companies have full access to genetic material as this is the basis for being able to carry out their breeding work. This access to genetic diversity and protection of innovations requires a subtle and appropriate balance. And this is what the discussion is all about! The meeting of French and Dutch leading companies provides an unique opportunity to contribute to this discussion and they can jointly propose specific recommendations how to restore the balance between protection and access.

A continuous search after improving efficiency of the time-consuming breeding process and to shorten the time in developing new promising varieties is obvious for the sector. Benefitting from and application of the latest techniques from biotechnology is very important to them. A public debate is ongoing, in particular regarding techniques which result in genetically modified organisms. However, making use of several of these techniques accelerates tremendously the speed of traditional breeding work and does not necessarily lead to gmo’s. Uncertainty whether applying these techniques is acceptable or not, delays the development of the European breeding sector. The breeding companies from France and the Netherlands may contribute significantly and positively to this debate and help to find a way forward.

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