New breeding techniques like genome editing allow scientists to specifically adjust the plant’s own DNA, making the plants more resilient to changing environmental conditions. To illustrate that, EU-SAGE published today an interactive genome-edited crops database. The database shows that genome editing is used in a wide variety of crops to improve diverse characteristics, many of which can contribute to more sustainable agriculture.
Since the development of the Nobel prize winning CRISPR-Cas genome editing technique for plants, many researchers have adopted worldwide genome editing in research and breeding activities to develop improved crop varieties. However, what is the latest status of scientific advancement in this exciting field of plant research?
The EU-SAGE database represents state-of-the-art scientific evidence of worldwide genome editing applications in crops for agricultural production. It contains currently more than 500 entries, and the database will be frequently updated with the latest scientific studies.
Different elements including the plant species and trait can be filtered in the interactive database, which will help to address specific questions and to support conclusions relevant in future policy discussions about this plant breeding innovation.
The applications in the database demonstrate that genome editing can contribute in the development of new crop varieties for more sustainable agriculture. However, R&D in Europe is lagging behind, mainly due to the current EU legislation, which determines that all genome-edited crop varieties are subject to strict GMO regulations. This EU GMO legislation makes it almost impossible to place such new crop varieties on the market for cultivation in the EU and acts as an unsurmountable threshold for small and medium plant breeding companies to enter this market.
A consistent and proportionate legal framework, as already is in place in many other areas of the world, will foster the development of genome-edited crops for the EU market by public institutions and the plant breeding sector.
The database can be consulted at the website of EU-SAGE: https://www.eu-sage.eu/genome-search and a summary about the database has been published in the scientific journal ‘Trends in Plant Science’ https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1f69u4rGdjSl-%7E).
The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European´s Commission Science and Knowledge Service recently published the Report "New Genomic Techniques: State-of-the-Art Review". This review of the scientific and technological developments on New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) is aimed to provide the technical status of NGTs with respect to their diverse mechanisms of action and applicability. It has been compiled in support to the request to the Commission to submit a study in light of the Court of Justice's judgment in Case C-528/16 regarding the status of novel genomic techniques under Union law (Council Decision (EU) 2019/1904). This study used a systematic literature survey to identify the major NGTs employed for genome modifications in plants, animals and microorganisms and gives an overview of the possible genome alterations and their likelihood of occurring in nature or through conventional breeding.
For the purposes of this study, NGTs are defined as 'techniques that are able to alter the genetic material of an organism, developed after the publication of EU Directive 2001/18/EC'. The study covers NGT applications in agri-food, industrial and medicinal sectors that have resulted in applications that are already being marketed (commercial stage), are at a confirmed pre-market development stage (pre-commercial stage) or are at a research and development (R & D) stage but showing market potential (advanced and early R & D stage).
The scope includes the use of NGTs in any kind of plant, mushroom, animal or microorganism or in human cells.
Currently, few NGT applications are marketed worldwide: one plant product, one microorganism for release into the environment and several microorganisms used for contained production of commercial molecules. There are, however, about 30 identified applications (in plants, animals and microorganisms) at a pre-commercial stage in the pipeline that could reach the market in the short term (within 5 years). In addition, the medicinal sector is actively using NGTs to tackle several human diseases, and in many cases applications have already reached patients, in phase I and phase I/II clinical trials.
The Society for Plant Biotechnology is holding a workshop on molecular breeding again this year. The Society's annual general meeting will follow this. On two days at the beginning of September, current work in plant biotechnological research and molecular breeding will be presented and discussed in a circle of colleagues. To emphasize the workshop character, there will be enough time for discussions and questions between the contributions. Posters can also be presented online.
If you are interested in detailed information on the preliminary programme, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to your participation!
Scientists answer questions about new breeding techniques such as CRISPR/Cas & Co.
Each of the first six episodes comprises 5-6 questions and lasts around 12 minutes. In the second episode, the chairperson of our Society for Plant Biotechnology provides information on the detectability and safety of genome-edited plants and their products.
The first season deals exclusively with genome editing in plants. The range of topics will be expanded in subsequent seasons.
Click here for the short portraits of the interview partners of the first season.
Links for the podcasts you find here:
Nine French associations and trade unions asked Prime Minister Édouard Philippe to subject organisms obtained by mutagenesis to GMO regulations and to declare a moratorium on the use of herbicide-tolerant plant varieties obtained by mutagenesis, which was refused and was referred to the Conseil d’Etat. The Conseil d’Etat, France’s top administrative court, ruled with reference to the judgment of the European Court of Justice (C-528/16, 25 July 2018) that organisms obtained via in-vitro mutagenesis techniques should be subject to GMO regulation. The court has ordered the government to update regulations which includes identifying the agricultural plant varieties which have been obtained by these techniques and subjecting them to the assessments applicable to GMOs.
To our opinion the French draft legal proposal disregards scientific evidence and action by the European Commission is therefore needed to prevent it from being acted. For this reason, Klaus Jany from Wissenschaftlerkreis Grüne Gentechnik e.V. and we as a society have sent a corresponding statement to Brussels and the BMEL.
Currently, there is a public consultation on the applicability of the EFSA opinion on site-directed nucleases type 3 for the safety assessment of plants developed using site-directed nucleases type 1 and 2 and oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis. In summary, it is concluded that genome-edited plants do not pose any additional hazards compared to conventional breeding techniques and that the existing Guidances for food and feed and environmental risk assessment are sufficient, but apply only partially to genome-edited plants. The Society for Plant Biotechnology has submitted a statement on this.
Since the whole world is currently revolving around the COVID-19 pandemic, the homepage of VBIO (Verband Biologie, Biowissenschaften & Biomedizin in Deutschland), the umbrella organisation of the German bioscientific societies, offers an interesting collection of background information and current developments, including, of course, which contributions biotechnological approaches can make to the detection and production of vaccines.
After biotechnology has celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019, April 2020 will be the 30th anniversary of European legislation on genetic engineering. With the possibility of changing our genetic material in the test tube and reintroducing it into other organisms, even across species boundaries, the necessity of setting a legal framework for this new technology arose. Background information on how this has changed and developed, as well as a fascinating journey through the history of genetic engineering law can be found here (German only).
Under the moderation of the President of the Society for Plant Biotechnology, Prof. Gabi Krczal, a dialogue event on the current topic of targeted genome modification took place in Berlin on January 30. The invitation was extended by the Wissenschaftlerkreis Grüne Gentechnik e.V. (WGG) and the German Life Science Association (VBIO e. V.). Numerous members of parliament and staff of the responsible ministries attended the meeting to discuss the necessary adaptation of legislation to the current state of science and technology. At the same time, a joint statement of WGG and VBIO was presented, which calls for a fact-based adaptation of Directive 2001/18/EC. Further information can be found under the following link. The joint press release you find here.
The Board supports the initiative of students of the University of Wageningen to revise the EU Genetic Engineering Directive 2001/18 / EC. As a result, a targeted risk assessment has to be made possible in the release of such plants, which were produced by "Novel Breeding Technologies" (NBT). The citizens' initiative must be completed within one year, collecting at least one million signatures from at least seven different Member States by 25 July 2020 in order to persuade the Commission to act in the required sense or justify its non-action.
This link takes you directly to the signature collection website.
Dear members of the Plant Biotechnology Society,
the program for this year's Molecular Breeding Workshop in Geisenheim is now complete. There will be lectures on CRISPR / Cas applications, plant transformation and epigenetics, markers. Furthermore, a general meeting will take place.
For details, please refer to the 2nd Circular.
Dear members of the Plant Biotechnology Society,
This year, the society organizes again a workshop on molecular breeding. This will take place from the 5th to the 6th of September in Geisenheim. This also in connection with the annual general meeting of the society.
We look forward to your participation.
Dr. Robert Boehm
- Geschäftsführer -
Gesellschaft für Pflanzenbiotechnologie
In response to the judgement of the European Court of Justice on targeted mutagenesis, the Bioeconomy Council calls on politicians to modernize genetic engineering law. Otherwise, Germany will not be involved in this 'bilogical revolution' and will not be involved in shaping the necessary international regulation. The Bioeconomy Council is an independent advisory board of the German Federal Government on the way to the bio-based economy.
At the delegates' meeting of the VBIO, which took place on Friday, December 14, 2018 in Berlin, our chairman Prof. Gabi Krczal was elected to the advisory board. The advisory board consists of representatives of the various disciplines and advises the presidium on outstanding questions of association work.
According to the ECJ judgment on genome-edited plants, feed manufacturers and companies in the food sector are increasingly asking questions about the ability to prove genome-edited imported goods. In order to answer these questions professionally, a joint position paper (in German only) on the traceability of genome-edited plants was prepared by the Society for Plant Biotechnology and the Scientific Committee for Green Gene Technology.
The Association of scientists on Green Gene Technology and the Association Française des Biotechnologies Végétales have written an open letter to Commission President Junker and the Commissioners for Health, Agriculture, Science and Innovation, and Industry and Entrepreneurship as part of the public debate on genome editing. The letter has been signed by numerous organizations, including the Society of Plant Biotechnology, and individuals.
With genome editing, targeted mutations can be introduced into plants, which could also occur naturally. The European Court of Justice has now ruled that the so-modified plants are covered by the Genetic Engineering Act.
In the photo you see the old and the new board (from left to right): Dr. Götz Hensel, Dr. Antje Dietz-Pfeilstetter, the new chairperson Prof. Gabi Krczal, Dr. Robert Boehm and Prof. Hans-Jörg Jacobsen
At the last General Assembly, which took place together with the Molecular Breeding Workshop on 4 August 2017 at the Julius Kühn Institute in Braunschweig, Prof. Gabi Krczal was unanimously elected as the new Chairperson. She takes over the office of Prof. Hans-Jörg Jacobsen, who has headed the society for the past 10 years and has not been re-elected for age reasons. At this point, the management board would like to thank, also on behalf of all members, for the many years of personal commitment of Prof. Hans-Jörg Jacobsen for the cause of plant biotechnology. He gave it a voice in many political and public events and fought for the social acceptance of biotechnological breeding methods and their products. Thus, the Society for Plant Biotechnology has become an integral part of the social discourse on the benefits and risks of this branch of science and its applications. Prof. Gabi Krczal, longtime director of AIPlanta in Neustadt a.d. Weinstrasse, is a proven expert in many aspects of modern plant biotechnology. With her at the head of the otherwise unchanged board, the political and social work of the society in the sense of Prof. Hans-Jörg Jacobsen will be continued, so that society will stay also in the future an important link between science, society and politics.
For the coming challenges the board wishes Mrs. Gabi Krczal good luck and looks forward to a trusting and fruitful cooperation.