French winegrowers plead for new breeding methods

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.

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