French winegrowers plead for new breeding methods
In order to be able to provide traditional grape varieties with resistance to mildew and drought, French winemakers are calling for approval of genome editing in viticulture. Instead of breeding new varieties in lengthy processes, Gene Scissors can be used to optimize wine varieties that are popular with consumers.
Monday, February 7, 2022
The French wine portal "Vitisphere" dedicates an article to genome editing in viticulture. André Baniol, a winemaker from the Nîmes region, in an open letter to the French Institute of Wine and Viticulture (IFV) and the Ministry of Agriculture FranceAgriMer, called for relaxation of the restrictions on genome editing in viticulture. The very precise new breeding technologies could make existing grape varieties more robust against pests and droughts. The consequence: Winegrowers would have to use far fewer pesticides without losing the advantages of established wine varieties: "The grape varieties would only maintain the resistance genes to fungal diseases without losing their organoleptic properties such as taste, color, appearance, smell or their variety name, which is the key to market access," says Baniol.
Benefits for environmental protection
Aynard de Clermont-Tonnerre, Secretary General of the Assembly of European Wine Regions (AREV) and winemakers, agrees with Baniol: "Unlike genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the new breeding technologies allow for minor changes without unknown or dangerous consequences," he says. The problem, however, is that the new breeding methods such as the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors in the EU have been subject to the same rules as GMOs since 2021. But without the new breeding methods, the EU's goal of reducing pesticide use by 50 percent by 2030 cannot be achieved: "Not moving would be an ecological disaster," says de Clermont-Tonnerre. The German Nobel Laureate Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard made a similar statement in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She believes that reason demands using the gene scissors in organic plant breeding.
The EU Commission has decided to endorse the assessment of the European Food Safety Authority, which found no critical problem areas regarding the effects of glyphosate on the environment and human and animal health. The EU Commission's science-based decision to extend the authorisation for a further 10 years is also a rejection of the scare campaigns by Greenpeace and Co.
More and more invasive pests are spreading in Switzerland. The most recent example is the Asian hornet, which poses a major threat to the native honey bee. But other invasive species also threaten agriculture and biodiversity. Control measures are many and varied. But pesticides (plant protection products and biocides) remain an important tool in the fight against the pests.
Greenpeace has been fighting bitterly against green genetic engineering for decades. SWR Wissen investigated why the environmental campaign organisation has become so entrenched in the issue and detached itself from scientific evidence. In the case of "Golden Rice", the consequences are particularly glaring. But alarmism also threatens to block important innovations in new breeding methods.