AS EUROPEAN farmers facing the challenges of climate change, there is an urgent need to develop new and better plant varieties using new breeding techniques.

Speaking at the EU Commission Conference on Modern Biotechnologies in Agriculture, European farming unions Copa and Cogeca stressed that farmers and breeders needed to innovate to deal with the challenge of feeding a growing world population with limited resources and increasingly variable weather events, ranging from floods to drought.

"We need to develop new plant varieties which are for example resistant to water and heat stress, as a way to adapt to climate change," said CC seed working party chairman Thor Korfoed.

“New breeding techniques are crucial tools to support innovation in the plant breeding sector and in livestock genetic enhancement as a whole. And European farmers and their cooperatives need access to these technological advancements in order to meet the upcoming challenges and to remain competitive," said Mr Korfoed.

But for the necessary investments to be made, he said that breeders needed 'legal certainty' and a well-functioning EU single market: "We believe that NBTs should be looked at and discussed by experts on a case-by-case basis and according to scientific criteria.

"The EU Commission keeps postponing its Communication on the legal status of NBTs," he added. "We urge them to accelerate the process and clarify the legal status of NBTs to ensure that we have an innovative agriculture sector in the future capable of meeting growing demand. New techniques, like mutagenesis techniques, are a prime example of why this process needs to be speeded up," he concluded.