Riigikogu backs use of new genomic techniques in agriculture

Tomatoes (photo is illustrative).
Tomatoes (photo is illustrative). Source: Pixabay

A Riigikogu committee approved the state's line on a European Union regulation which permits the cultivation of plants utilizing various state-of-the-art geonomic techniques.

This includes plants grown for food.

Chair of the European Union Affairs Committee Liisa Pakosta (Eesti 200) says that plant breeding is particularly important for Estonia. "We also have several strong actors in this field, such as the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Polli Horticultural Research Centre and the University of Tartu. Scientists have come up with new ways of breeding plant varieties which imitate nature itself, and are already being used by the rest of the world."

The committee convened on Friday, October 27.

Pakosta added that one of Estonia's aims at the negotiations held in the EU was to also find suitable solutions for organic production, as the new breeding techniques developed by scientists could be useful in the organic sector also.

"At the moment, organic production is excluded not for substantive reasons, but because there are opposing views among organic producers concerning the new breeding technologies. Estonian organic producers were not opposed to the draft regulation during the proceedings, however," Pakosta went on, via a Riigikogu press release.

The European Union Affairs Committee, in line with the opinion of the Rural Affairs Committee, decided to approve the government's positions on a proposal for a  European Parliament regulation on plants obtained by certain new genomic techniques

Note was taken of the fact that that the achievements of science and innovation had created precision breeding techniques that could be used to breed plants in the way it would occur in nature, or varieties that were considered equivalent to conventional plants.

The outdatedness of existing EU legislation was also noted, while the regulation dealt with innovative methods of plant breeding which had emerged since 2001.

Estonia's official position is that it is right to consider the plant varieties obtained through new breeding techniques, which can also be obtained naturally or by conventional breeding methods, as equivalents

They should thus be treated separately from genetically modified organisms.

The characteristics that contribute to sustainability, such as resistance to diseases, climate adaptation and enhanced yield, are important in conventional as well as new breeding techniques, the state finds.

Pakosta added that: "The possibility of breeding new plant varieties so that the genetic modification techniques banned in the EU are not used, but instead opportunities are found to breed plants in a way similar to natural cross-breeding or random mutations, is very important for Estonian farmers and forest growers alike."

Liisa Pakosta (Eesti 200) Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"This type of work by scientists could relieve our children of some of the current worries, from withering of fir seedlings to the need to use dangerous chemicals to control pests. Genetic modification will continue to be banned, but, in simple terms, the pushing of what happens in nature all by itself will be allowed. I am delighted that this innovation, which is necessary for Estonia, got cross-party support," Pakosta added.

Head of the Research and Development Department Mai-Liis Palginõmm and Chief Specialist Kadri Just of the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture also took part in the agenda item discussion, and provided an overview of the initiative.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Riigikogu press service.

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