News - October 18, 2018

Plant breeding companies are turning their back on the Netherlands and WUR

Albert Sikkema

Plant breeding companies are moving their R&D departments out of Europe or are at least considering doing so. This will cause WUR to miss out on research assignments with the new breeding technique CRISPR-Cas.

© Sven Menschel

This is stated in an article in today’s Resource.

The largest Dutch trader in seed potatoes, HZPC, is relocating its research on CRISPR-Cas outside the EU, the trade journal Boerderij announced this summer. The German plant breeding company KWS, which mainly breeds maize, sugar beets, cereals and potatoes, will move part of its R&D (research & development) departments from Europe to the US,

It is the consequence of the European Court of Justice’s ruling that the technique CRISPR-Cas, which allows very precise changes to be made to the DNA of bacteria, plants and animals, should fall under the strict laws for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Plant breeders will have to prove that they created their new varieties without the help of CRISPR-Cas. This is very difficult. Plant breeding companies are drawing their own conclusions and intend to relocate their R&D departments.

Plant Sciences Group director Ernst van der Ende told Resource he already sees this shift. ‘A few companies have withdrawn their CRISPR-Cas research assignments in the past few months.’ He is not prepared to say which companies or how much money is involved. There are also discussions in the Horticulture and Propagation Materials top sector about whether breeding companies will still be willing to invest in research on CRISPR-Cas, says Van den Ende, who is on the board of this top sector. He warns that this will put the Dutch plant breeding sector at a disadvantage.

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