By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy
A recent decision by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency is a great step forward for innovative breeding methods that can help farmers address some of the world’s most urgent challenges.
The agency announced that Japan’s government will not require special labeling for products derived from plant breeding innovation, such as gene editing, that do not contain foreign DNA. Japan has a history of skepticism toward new agricultural technology. For example, it requires products that include transgenic traits be labeled as such. The Consumer Affairs Agency’s decision is important because it helps add clarity to how gene editing may be regulated and supports advanced technology development.
That is good news for agriculture in general, even more so for wheat production specifically. Unlike other major row crops in the U.S., there are no wheat varieties with commercialized GM traits. That means farmers do not have access to the seed technology that has helped others. We see this disadvantage in declining acres and in a slower pace of yield increases compared to soybeans, corn and other crops U.S. farmers can grow. Gene editing provides a safe and efficient way to make targeted improvements in new wheat varieties that respond to environmental stressors, combat plant disease, and benefit millers and consumers alike. However, these benefits are only possible when regulations are based in science rather than rooted in fear.
With changing climates, severe weather events, and perennial concerns like drought, disease, and pests, it is imperative that the world’s farmers have access to the best tools available. And this includes their seed. With those tools, we can ensure that U.S. farmers are providing the highest possible quality wheat consistently and reliably for years to come.
For more information about a growing understanding of DNA and advanced breeding methods in agriculture, and to learn how innovations such as gene editing can benefit our planet, our health and our food, visit www.innovature.com.