28th Feb 2024


EU Commission is jeopardising future of organic farming

  • By banning all these new plant breeding techniques in organic farming, the commission deprive the organic sectors of access to new varieties (Photo: Markus Spiske)
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The European Union's commitment to the development of organic agriculture is facing a serious setback with the EU Commission's new proposal on New Genomic Techniques (NGT).

While the commission's intentions behind the proposal generally are good, it may hamper the growth and innovation within the organic farming sector due to the commission's suggestion to impose a blanket ban on NGT crops in organic farming.

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This is also the case when it comes to the precise techniques to achieve mutations, despite these techniques being similar to the traditional breeding methods that have been used by organic farmers for decades.

In essence, these targeted techniques (sdn-1) induce changes within the crops' existing genome and make use of plants' natural repair mechanism to restore their chromosomes on their own.

These techniques are fundamentally different from transgenic crops, where foreign genetic material is inserted. These are and shall also in the future be prohibited in organic agriculture due to their incompatibility with organic principles.

Plant breeding is an indispensable tool for developing crops. Also, for organic farmers. It is necessary to meet the challenges food production is facing such as climate change. Not only resilience to drought but also resistance to new plant diseases and pests. New breeding techniques are expected to be a valuable tool in this development.

The commission's ambition to have 25 percent of the farmland in the European Union under organic cultivation by 2030, as part of the European Green Deal, is commendable. To achieve this goal, organic farmers should have access to the best possible conditions and tools with respect for the integrity of the organic sector.

Unfortunately, by banning all these new plant breeding techniques in organic farming, the commission deprives the organic sectors of access to new varieties when these new plant breeding methods overtake the scene from older mutagenesis techniques. This can leave the organic sector with only the most inefficient breeding techniques, and we see a risk that this may not be sufficient for the desired development and growth.

As representatives of the organic farming community, we call on the European Commission, the Council, and the European Parliament to collaborate in crafting a forward-looking policy that safeguards the progress of organic agriculture within our non-GM commitment.

Clarity in terminology and a nuanced approach to regulation will ensure that organic farmers can continue their vital work.

The potential consequences of this proposal for a new regulation extend beyond the organic sector itself. The EU's broader sustainability goals rely on innovative agricultural practices, and organic farming plays a significant role in this endeavour.

By encouraging the use of a limited share of the new NGTs in organic agriculture while preserving the non-GM status, the EU can further promote sustainable practices and reinforce its commitment to a greener future.

It is only by embracing innovation and nurturing a thriving organic sector that we can collectively build a more sustainable and resilient agricultural landscape for the future.

Author bio

Lone Andersen is an organic dairy farmer in Denmark. Domingo Pérez Perogil, producer of dryland agriculture and sheep farming, Manchego breed and early Merino, in Castilla La Manch, Spain. Markus Eerola is an organic arable farmer in Finland. Emilia Astrenius is an organic dairy farmer in Västra Götaland, Sweden. Mareks Bērziņš is an organic farmer and vice-president of the Farmers Parliament union in Latvia.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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