Securing food security for a burgeoning population, with limited resources and increasing pressure to combat global warming, is one of the biggest challenges European agriculture faces this decade, according to Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen.
In a letter sent by the farming body to Europe’s health and food safety commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Pesonen called for the EC to clarify the law on NBTs.
NBTs include cloning, genetic modification and gene editing - a form of genetic modification.
Pesonen also said that, to keep pace with growing food demands, meat producers needed to develop animals with resistance to water and heat stress. This is to ensure livestock is more resilient to the unpredictable weather events caused by climate change - something a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change deemed necessary.
“New breeding techniques are consequently very important tools to support innovation in the plant breeding sector and in livestock genetic enhancement as a whole,” said Pesonen in the letter to the commissioner.“And European farmers and their cooperatives need access to these technological advancements in order to meet the upcoming challenges and to remain competitive.”
Copa-Cogeca wants NBTs to be analysed on a case-by-case basis with the scientific merits and disadvantages weighed up by an industry expert. The body has also accused the EC of delaying the legal status of NBTs and said it hopes the letter will “accelerate the process” of clarifying the legal position on NBTs.
Despite Copa-Cogeca calling for better policy on the use of NBTs, animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) said the move could make things worse for livestock.
“I am appalled that Copa-Cogeca is pushing for permission to use new breeding technologies,” said Peter Stevenson, CiWF’s chief policy adviser. “These include cloning, GM and gene editing (a form of GM). I fear these are mainly going to be used to push animals to ever faster growth rates and higher yields.
“Traditional genetic selection has already led to serious welfare problems for dairy cows, broilers, laying hens and pigs. New breeding technologies are likely to make things much worse. The industry should stop trying to push animals to ever higher levels of productivity as this generally has a disastrous effect on welfare.”