For this section of the current edition, we asked specialists from international agricultural research centres to give accounts of their activities in plant breeding. This had been prompted by the ruling of the European Court of Justice in late July 2018 stipulating that new plant breeding technologies such as genome editing receive the same legal treatment as conventional genetic engineering methods do. While this does not ban their application (in Europe), they are now subject to stringent regulatory conditions. In response to this development, leading scientists from more than 85 European plant and life science research centres issued a position paper warning that the ruling was “irresponsible in the face of the world’s current far-reaching agricultural challenges”.
This edition of Rural 21 is by no means intended to once again spark the old debate on the pros and cons of genetic engineering – the arguments here are by and large well familiar, and positions regarding the issue are more or less firmly established. Rather, what we want to show is which developments plant breeding has seen over the last few decades and what challenges it faces today given climate change and more and more global crises.
In face of eleven years left to achieve Agenda 2030 and monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the way there, data access, management and protection is becoming more important than ever. Moreover, identifying measures to combat climate change for resilience and food security requires the availability of accurate and up-to-date data. But data have to be collected, analysed, disseminated and maintained, and in many cases, the capacities needed for this are lacking. This section of the latest Rural 21 edition is dedicated to showcasing how to close this data gap.