Stakeholder and issue mapping on New Breeding Techniques

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Stakeholder and issue mapping on New Breeding Techniques

Stakeholder and issue mapping on New breeding techniques

April 2017


Contents 2

Introduction & methodology 5

Executive summary 5

Main arguments in favour of NBTs per country 7

United Kingdom 9

Overview of NBT discussion 9

Political & Media climate 10

Ministries 13

Regulatory agencies 14

Other stakeholders 16

Communication 23

Italy 25

Overview of NBT discussion 25

Political & Media climate 26

Ministries 29

Regulatory agencies 29

Other stakeholders 31

Communications 36

Germany 38

Overview of NBT discussion 38

Political & Media climate 38

Ministries 40

Regulatory agencies 42

Other stakeholders 46


Overview of NBT discussion 52

Political & Media climate 52

Ministries 54

Regulatory agencies 55

Other stakeholders 56

National associations 56

Scientists and their institutes 58

Communications 59

Poland 60

Overview of NBT discussion 60

Political & Media climate 61

Ministries 62

Regulatory agencies 62

Other stakeholders 64

Spain 67

Overview of NBT discussion 67

Political & Media climate 68

Ministries 69

Regulatory agencies 71

Other stakeholders 71

Communications 74

Belgium 75

Overview of NBT discussion 75

Political & Media climate 76

Ministries 79

Regulatory agencies 80

Other stakeholders 81

Communications 84

France 87

Overview of NBT discussion 87

Political & Media climate 88

Ministries 90

Regulatory agencies 91

Other stakeholders 92

Communications 97

Finland 99

Overview of NBT discussion 99

Political & Media climate 102

Ministries 102

Regulatory agencies 104

Other stakeholders 104

Communications 106

Sweden 107

Overview of NBT discussion 107

Political & Media climate 107

Ministries 107

Regulatory agencies 108

Other stakeholders 108

Communications 111

Introduction & methodology

The research findings presented in this report are based only on desk research with one exception for Finland, where little information on the topics is available online. To that end we spoke to our trusted contacts within the Finish ministries without revealing neither the intent of the question nor the organisation that will use the information. We used a combination of search tools: in addition to search engines, we used the online analytics tool Crimson Hexagon which allows us to search social media for the past year. We also looked at the dedicated websites of ministries and used their smart search tools where available.

The ministries that are responsible for regulating GMOs were included together with the relevant statements where available. In order to find relevant industry or farmer stakeholders we looked at the national associations that are traditionally vocal in the GMO debate. We included some of the major associations that – even though have not expressed a view on NBTs – are important to monitor going forward as they have a major stake in the debate.

Each language has a different paraphrase of new breeding techniques (Italian often uses the English term) and direct translation was often not available. Details regarding the ways NBTs are called in each country are provided in the report below.

In order to measure the intensity of the conversation on NBTs in each country, we used Crimson Hexagon to quantify the number of mentions in news and social media (Twitter). As key words we used “new breeding techniques”, “new plant breeding techniques”, “NBTs”, “NPBTs”, the names of the techniques, in English or translated in the local language where needed, as well as the local expression for NBTs. Interestingly, most languages struggle to find a definitive local translation of new plant breeding techniques and official publications use the English version.

Executive summary

The topic of NBTs in agriculture has received the most coverage in the UK, France and the Netherlands and the least attention in Poland, Belgium, and Spain. NBTs are most visibly supported by politicians and scientists in the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden. From the little information that exists on NBTs in Finland and Sweden, we can conclude that the mood in these countries is overall positive, but important stakeholders have not been actively promoting the technology. Contrary to our expectations, Spain, which is generally positive towards GMOs, has not expressed explicit support to NBTs. In Belgium and Poland where NBTs are almost a non-issue in terms of online debate, a few scientists and/or politicians have tried to spur the discussion but have not received media attention. Similarly in Italy, Sweden and Finland, some politicians have spoken out in support of the technology and its benefits for the respective country, but this has not generated online coverage. The debate in France and Germany is very polarised with important and vocal stakeholders on both sides of the argument.

In all cases the ministers that are in charge of GMO regulation are also designated as the ones in charge of NBTs. Most of them (Germany, UK, Belgium, Italy, France, Sweden, Finland, and Netherlands) have expressed their position in one form or the other, for example, in an answer to a parliamentary question. However, only the Swedish, Finish and the UK governments have explicitly stated that NBTs are important for the future of the national agri-food sector and the environment and have included these techniques in relevant future-looking policy papers. Similarly, Italy has announced a major government-funded research in NBTs, while the Netherlands has specifically expressed support for cisgenesis (while in the UK risk assessment agencies are less certain about excluding cisgenesis from the GMO legislation). In the case of Poland and Spain, either information was not available online or it has proved too difficult to find.

Most importantly, most governments have reiterated that the final decision of whether or not NBTs should be regulated as GMOs lies with the EU and have been reluctant to state a definitive opinion. Even the policymakers in countries where ministries or regulatory agencies have expressed a positive stance towards one or more NBTs have cautiously said that ultimately it is not their decision to make (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland). The Netherlands has explicitly mentioned that it would advocate for the acceptance of NBTs in Europe, while the UK already considers the possibilities for commercialisation of NBTs after Brexit. France has also mentioned that it would contribute to the debate and try to influence the EU decision once the government adopts its own position. Interestingly, most of the Swedish politicians who are vocal on the subject have stated that legislation is falling behind scientific development and even GMO rules need to change. There has been no comment on NBTs by policymakers in Poland.

Statements by regulatory agency or risk assessment bodies exist in Germany (ODM and CRISPR-Cas9), Sweden (CRISPR-Cas9), UK (NBTs in general), and to some extent France (NBTs in general). However, none of these constitute a definite position as governments continue to hold stakeholder discussions on the topic and/or await the EU’s decision.

The stakeholders who are mostly speaking about NBTs in agriculture are scientists who fear that strict regulation of NBTs could prevent yet another research opportunity in biotechnology. As leading research centres, the institutes in the UK and the Netherlands are the most advanced in the scientific debate and receive the most local and international media coverage. However, the Belgium scientific institutes that are also advanced in their research have not received the same online attention and nor have the Italian scientists who have also received funding by the government for research in NBTs.

Farmers in most countries have expressed opinions on NBTs. The biggest farmer associations in the UK, Netherlands, France (farmers & farmer cooperatives) and Sweden have stated support for excluding NBTs from the GMO legislation. Spanish farmer associations have not mentioned NBTs concretely, but have expressed general support to biotechnology. In Germany the biggest farmer union (DBV) does not have a position, but the cooperative (Raiffeisen) is supportive. The Belgium farmer association has called for a restarting of the discussion on cisgenesis as the technique could improve crops, while Finland’s forest owners have adopted a pragmatic approach.

Other associations such as grain and feed producers have been more reluctant to speak out. Dutch, German and French associations have been the most vocal and supportive, while the UK and Italian associations have been communicating on NBTs less actively. The research has found one supportive statement by the potato producers in Belgium and no statements by relevant associations in Poland, Spain and Finland.

Local NGOs have been mostly recycling the information produced by international NGOs (Greenpeace, Corporate Europe Observatory, GeneWatch, Friends of the Earth) or organic producers (IFOAM). They are mostly active in France, the UK and Germany which reflects the general NGO scene as these countries are the home of most NGOs in Europe.

In conclusion, the research has found that in most cases the discussion is spearheaded by politicians. The positive voices – farmers and scientists – have not received enough online attention even though they outnumber NGOs. This suggests that NGOs have had a more successful communication on the topic and might become louder that the NBT supporters. Out of the ten countries analysed, none has adopted a definitive position against NBTs and continue to consult stakeholders which creates a window of opportunity for the seed industry to change the narrative.

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