At the end of October, swiss-food.ch hosted a film screening and panel discussion in Zurich on the subject of genome editing entitled “Between Protest and Potential”. The well-attended event dealt with the emotional debates in recent decades surrounding genetic engineering. The event showed that the situation has changed fundamentally.
To denigrate green genetic engineering, narratives that do not stand up to scrutiny keep popping up in the public debate. The aim in each case is political. Recently, the false claims are intended to prevent the regulation of new breeding methods such as Crispr Cas from being technology-friendly.
The science magazine "Einstein" of Swiss Television has addressed the new breeding methods. The report clearly shows that there is no way around these new methods if Switzerland wants to continue cultivating popular apple varieties such as Gala, Braeburn, and Golden Delicious.
In future, the EU wants to treat genome-edited plants in the same way as conventionally bred ones. As the "NZZ am Sonntag" writes, this is like a small revolution. Until now, the commercial use of gene scissors has been impossible due to an extremely restrictive genetic engineering law.
A regulatory change in England allows the commercial use of new breeding technologies. Until now, these technologies had been regulated in accordance with the same restrictive rules as in the EU. As a result of the new law, English farmers are now allowed to grow crops that have been bred using genome editing. This gives England’s farmers a new tool in the fight against climate change and for more sustainable agriculture.
A research consortium of industry and public researchers in England has published a genome database of the most common insect pests in the United Kingdom. The open-source database has been set up to help with the development of targeted and environmentally friendly pesticides.
Bioengineered crops have been cultivated in many parts of the world for around 25 years. Several publications bear witness to the great benefits of biotechnology in agriculture. The cultivation of the plants has a positive effect on the environment, the climate and yields for farmers.
Nobel prize laureate Nüsslein-Volhard: “Genetic engineering offers major opportunities for environmental protection”
Genetically modified plants are not cultivated in Europe, an approach criticized by Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard as anti-scientific and ideology-driven.
Heat waves are posing a major challenge to cultivation around the world. Water shortages and droughts are resulting in heavy crop losses for the agricultural industry. Because droughts will be more frequent in the future, the search for plant varieties that consume less water is a top priority. One drought-tolerant wheat variety from Argentina is showing great potential.
There are now more skeptics than ever before when it comes to biotechnological plant breeding methods, despite 30 years of research having produced a clear data basis. Conventional genetic engineering or the more modern CRISPR/Cas method present no increased risks compared to traditional breeding methods, such as cross-breeding.
Great Britain has already decided on its first steps, Switzerland has too: The handling of simple genome-edited plants is being made easier.
Swiss agriculture is under pressure. Due to the changing climatic conditions and increasing weather extremes, the cultivation of many crops has become more demanding. Nevertheless, consumers, processors and trade expect regional and high-quality products at affordable prices.
The large-scale cultivation of genetically modified crops would counteract global warming. American and German researchers come to this conclusion in a study.
The Swiss Parliament has decided to update the genetic engineering moratorium that has been in place since 2005. The step was overdue. On the occasion of a webinar organized by swiss-food.ch, experts from science and agriculture spoke about the benefits of new biotechnological breeding methods. It became clear: the risks are low, the opportunities are great.
The summer of 2021 has shown how damaging prolonged rain can be for crops. With climate change, the likelihood of extreme weather events will increase. Farmers therefore need improved plant varieties that can withstand heat but also a lot of moisture.
In an opinion piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nobel laureate Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard argues the case for using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors in plant breeding, even in organic farming. In her view, genome editing brings numerous benefits, especially when it comes to nature conservation and species protection.
The romanticized conception of “natural” is deceptive. Very little of what we eat today developed naturally. “For 12,000 years, people have selected plants based on their characteristics, in an effort to make them edible and more productive,” says Bruno Studer, professor of Molecular Plant Breeding at ETH Zurich. Agriculture has developed through artificial selection.
The public is very open to the use of innovative technologies in agriculture. This also applies to targeted plant breeding using modern methods like gene editing.
Europeans are still resisting the cultivation of genetically modified crops – but this doesn’t mean they want to forgo the benefits of these products.
The protein-rich press residues of rapeseed would be ideally suited as feed for livestock with the help of "genome editing". Instead of imported soy, domestic rapeseed could be fed to animals.