The Van Trump Report

Rabobank Expects Rapid Adoption of GE Crop Seed Technology

According to a recent Rabobank report, adoption of gene-edited (GE) crops will increase significantly in the years ahead. Within the next 5 to 10 years, Rabobank analysts expect adoption rates could exceed 50% worldwide.

Chia-Kai Kang, farm inputs analyst at Rabobank, says that GE technology has the potential to solve issues across the food supply chain for all stakeholders. “It can increase crop productivity without expanding farmland area, reduce food waste, reduce harmful substances in food, and reduce pesticide use, among other things.”

One of the main advantages of using genome editing is that it can accelerate the development of improved varieties. Using technologies like CRISPR, genes can be edited directly, creating crops with new desired traits in a much shorter time compared with conventional breeding. Some research suggests that direct gene editing reduces the time needed to develop an improved variety by nearly two-thirds. Gene editing is also more precise, where as conventional breeding techniques often produce mixed results, with unwanted traits appearing alongside desired characteristics.

GE crops are not to be confused with genetically modified organisms (GMO). GE traits are derived by tweaking a plant’s existing genes while GMO crops get their traits from a different species, creating genetic combinations that are unlikely to occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. GMO’s have of course caused tremendous controversy with people fearing everything from possible allergies to negative impacts on the environment. In this way, Kang says GE technology solves one of the major criticisms of GMOs.  

According to Kang, there are at least five factors that will determine if a GE crop can achieve a high adoption rate. These include product performance, such as quality, yield, and consistency in performance; and possible long-term risks, such as allergic and toxic reactions. It also includes disruptions to trade flows due to possible bans on GE crops; the marketing power, selling strategy, and distribution network of the input company; and access to technology.

Desired traits that are driving GE crop development include enhanced crop productivity, drought tolerance, improved crop quality, reduced environmental impact, and increased sustainability. According to the USDA, 169 applications for GE products were submitted in the United States from 2011 to 2020.

There is now a wave of GE foodstuffs starting to hit the markets, including tomatoes, blackberries, kale, rice, and even cattle and pigs. Many nations have or are in the process of clearing the path for GE foods and expediting the approval process. The US, as well as the UK, China, and Brazil, now treat gene-edited products the same as conventional products, though may still evaluate their market suitability based on the final product itself or how it was produced. (Sources: Rabobank, Horticulture Daily, Genetic Literacy Project)

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