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EU study highlights benefits of plant breeding

Plant breeding innovation in Europe over the past 15 years has delivered major benefits for food production, economic growth, environmental protection and sustainable development, according to a new EU-wide study.



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The report by economic consultants HFFA Research identifies key areas in which the positive contribution of EU plant breeding can be measured and calculated.

 

Among the areas highlighted in the report are higher yields, improved farm incomes and increased food supply.

 

Welcoming the report, BSPB chief executive Dr Penny Maplestone says: “This study is the first of its kind to quantify the contribution of European plant breeding innovation, not only in supporting the productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of EU crop production, but also in securing wider policy objectives on issues such as food security, climate change and biodiversity preservation.

 

“But future innovation in EU plant breeding cannot be taken for granted, and will depend on continued public sector investment in relevant plant science research and an effective framework of IP protection, as well as a supportive regulatory environment.

 

“On key issues such as GMOs and novel breeding techniques, for example, EU decision-making has become highly politicised and unpredictable. The findings of this study should serve as a wake-up call to Europe’s policy-makers that fostering a science-based and enabling regulatory environment for plant breeding is an important investment for the economy, the environment and our future food security.”

 


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How plant breeding contributes

  • Higher yields: Across major crops cultivated in the EU, plant breeding has contributed around 74 per cent of total productivity growth since 2000, equivalent to a yield increase of 1.24 per cent per annum
  • Economic growth: Through higher yields, more efficient input use and improved crop quality, genetic improvement has added more than €14 billion (£11 billion) to the EU’s GDP, including €8 billion (£6 billion) to the agricultural economy
  • Improved farm incomes:2 million farm workers in Europe earn €7,000 (£5559) more per year on average thanks to innovation in plant breeding
  • Increased food supply: Since 2000, access to improved crop varieties has enabled EU farmers to produce enough extra calories to feed up to 200 million more people
  • Biodiversity and habitats: Without plant breeding innovation in the EU an additional 19 million hectares (47 million acres) of farmland would be needed to maintain crop production levels – equivalent to the combined arable land of the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal and Spain
  • Reduced GHG emissions: Plant breeding advances have supported a 3.4 billion tonne reduction in CO2emissions over the past 15 years

Source: Plant ETP/HFFA Research

 

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