The briefing provides an overview of the organic food and farming movement’s understanding of sustainability in crop breeding. As IFOAM Organics Europe, the European organic umbrella organisation and voice of organic with the EU institutions, we wrote this document to assess and counter the European Commission’s narrow and problematic approach to sustainability traits in plant breeding.

The European Commission’s approach to sustainability and innovation in our agrifood systems in the legislative proposal on so called “New Genomic Techniques” (NGTs), especially in the breeding sector, has significant shortcomings. A product or an agriculture production system cannot be declared “sustainable” solely based on a given plant variety, let alone a trait. Moreover, the alleged benefits of genetic engineering for sustainability, spanning from pest resistance to drought resistance, are currently based on assumptions and remain theoretical industry promises.

While innovation in breeding is needed, there are no shortcuts to circumvent the complexity of our food systems. So, breeding should not be reduced to using genetic engineering. The rich experience in organic agriculture over the past decades shows that an agroecological perspective of our food systems, relying on a combination of strategies and tools and on ecosystem interactions, is what creates long-term resilience. Using its system-based approach with biodiversification and ecosystems’ health at its core, organic breeding offers resilient pathways to sustainability and innovation in agriculture.

In this briefing, two case studies show organic breeding’s success in the transformation to sustainable production systems. Organic breeding offers socially innovative approaches that have environmental and socio-economic benefits, using inclusive systems of participatory breeding. These approaches heavily contrast with the harmful monopolisation of genetic resources into the hands of a few multinational companies through encroaching intellectual property rights on varieties and traits, which is legitimised by genetic engineering.

Ente che ha curato la pubblicazione
Helene Schmutzler (IFOAM Organics Europe)