New gene editing regulations will advance biological crop protection

Riggs
Rory Riggs Chairman and CEO, Cibus
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

The result will be less crop protection chemicals, improved sustainability, lower carbon footprint and better work conditions for farmers.

Every week, I read another article referencing new proposed regulations regarding gene editing for crops. These are all part of a global effort to harmonize the regulatory requirements for the new plant breeding innovations such as gene editing, to make these innovations available to the global farming industry and enable a free movement (import/export) of agricultural commodities using these innovations.

Lack of regulatory clarity

Their goal is to fix the patchwork of uncertain and complex regulations promulgated to ban or limit GMO’s or the use of foreign DNA in breeding traits. There is a global understanding that the lack of regulatory clarity, including consistent and predictable legislation with clear technical criteria, has stifled innovation and the potential impact of these technologies.

The technology breakthroughs driving these proposed regulatory changes are the new gene editing technologies that mimic the process by which genomic change occurs in nature. Because these gene-edited plant traits are indistinguishable from those that take place in nature the proposed regulations would treat these traits on the same basis as traits produced by conventional breeding. The regulations for traits that are developed using conventional breeding are globally harmonized. These new proposed changes would, in essence, have gene-edited traits logically follow those same regulations.

Gene-edited traits and precision plant breeding are a critically important component of the much-needed innovations for global crop farming

The driving force of our efforts in the agricultural gene editing industry is to address the critical challenge of global crop production: to enhance yield using less crop protection chemicals and fertilizers, to improve sustainability and to lower agriculture’s carbon footprint. To cope successfully with these challenges, biology-driven approaches such as gene-edited traits and precision plant breeding are a critically important component of the much-needed innovations for global crop farming.

Evolving these regulations is a global priority

The pressing need for innovations to address the challenges of climate change and food security have made evolving these regulations a global priority. Each innovation of this emerging industry improves farming sustainability and reduces the negative environmental impact of current crop production practice including the reduction of its carbon footprint.

Our goal is to manage challenges like crop diseases by developing crops with durable resistance to diseases

Crop protection chemicals have been highly successful in helping farmers manage the yield reducing impacts of disease, insects and weeds. But the gains have come with some environmental costs: harming soil microbes, ground water contamination, increased carbon footprint and air pollution. The new era of innovation for crop protection will come from biological products such as gene-edited traits, not chemistry. Our goal is to manage challenges like crop diseases by developing crops with durable resistance to diseases, as opposed to the traditional use of fungicides to combat them.

These efforts to harmonize global regulatory policy for gene editing is one of those rare instances in which new regulations can favorably address the sustainability, productivity, and profitability of the global food supply while at the same time directly address agriculture’s carbon footprint, and its impact on the environment.

Enable a new era of growth and innovation

Our innovations in biological crop protection will enable the farmer to better adapt to their rapidly changing environment, to lower their costs and to materially improve their workplace and working conditions. These are the real drivers in the push for a new regulatory environment to enable a new era of growth and innovation in global crop farming practice. As Copa Cogeco, a group that represents 22 million European farmers, put it, “[these technologies] are not a luxury but an urgent necessity for the vitality of the whole EU farming model…”

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