Innovation is at the centre of the EU2020 strategy. New technologies and its adoption by EU farmers is a key driver in maintaining European agriculture competitive in a global world. While the potential of technological development for sustainability of agriculture is acknowledged (in the three main challenges of competitiveness, food security and environmental impact), a major trend is towards increased "regulation" and governance of new technologies in agriculture, be it for concerns about their safety or even ethical and societal concerns.
EU policy developments in this field (regulations related to genetically modified- GM- crop cultivation is the main example) are expected to continue for the next decade. By its own nature, the conception and development of policies governing technology needs strong scientific support. AGRITECH provides scientific and economic data for evaluating the impacts of policy options for adoption/restriction of technologies. The work programme of AGRITECH focuses on agricultural biotechnology and includes technology characterisation, modelling technology adoption, estimation of impacts at farm or aggregated levels and capacity to model specific supply chains affected by new regulations.
Once policies for technology authorisation/restriction are in place, there is the need for implementation (at Member States or end user level), to realise the full potential of technologies while managing the economic or environmental risks. To cover policy implementation needs, AGRITECH operates with Member States the European Coexistence Bureau (ECoB) responsible for the definition of commonly agreed, EU-wide technical segregation measures between GM, conventional and organic agriculture.
Genetically modified crops: coexistence with conventional crops, pipeline of new GM crops, and socio-economic impacts for Europe
Coexistence allows farmers to choose between conventional, organic or genetically modified (GM) crop production, in compliance with the relevant EU legislation on labelling and/or purity standards. So far, EU experience with the commercial cultivation of GM crops and practical coexistence measures is limited to GM maize in some Member States. Previous research led by the IPTS helped develop tools allowing the estimation of adventitious admixture of GM and conventional crops in a given landscape. IPTS has also produced the first empirical analysis of the economic impacts of a GM crop adopted in European agriculture (Bt maize in Spain). Building on that experience, IPTS will extend its research to analysing the potential socio-economic impacts of the adoption of GM oilseed rape and GM maize in European agriculture. Moreover, worldwide new GM crops are being developed and cultivated. This poses new challenges for EU importers of these crops due to possible asynchrony in the approval of these crops between the EU and producer countries, which sometimes can result in restrictions in the access to commodity markets. IPTS will monitor the pipeline of upcoming GM crops worldwide to integrate also trade aspects in its research on the impact of GM crops for Europe.