Press Release No. 48 | November 15, 2023

Appeal to German Federal Government to Approve EU Regulatory Proposal on New Plant Breeding Techniques

Parliamentary Evening highlights potential of genomic techniques to tackle climate and biodiversity crisis / Patent law issues to be dealt with separately

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has made an urgent appeal to the German federal government to approve the European Commission’s draft regulation on the use of new genomic techniques in plant breeding. The largest research funding organisation and central self-governing organisation for science and the humanities in Germany organised a Parliamentary Evening in Berlin to explain the scientific position on the EU proposal to representatives of the government parliamentary groups.

Entitled “New breeding techniques as a contribution to overcoming multiple crises of the 21st century”, the event at the Representation of the European Commission in Berlin was attended by approximately 80 participants from politics and the research community. The patent law issues currently under discussion were also addressed at the event, as these are of considerable importance from a scientific point of view. Given that the issues relating to patent law are so complex, however, the recommendation is to conduct this debate separately from consideration of the present regulatory proposal. Ideally, the EU Commission’s draft regulation could then be adopted in its entirety before the European elections on 9 June 2024.

“It would send out the wrong signal to science and research if the decision on new genetic engineering legislation were to be postponed any longer. Facilitating access to field trials using plants developed using these new technologies is essential for future-oriented and innovative plant research in Germany and Europe,” said DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker, speaking on the sidelines of the event in Berlin. “Only field trials can clarify the extent to which research results from the laboratory and greenhouse can be transferred to the real-life conditions of cultivation. This is essential in terms of both basic research and practical application. The aim here is to understand the genetic basis of salt, drought and heat tolerance, for example – aspects that help adapt plants to a changing climate.”

There are currently clear and understandable concerns among plant breeders regarding the important issues of intellectual property protection in relation to plants produced using new genomic techniques (NGT plants). They are worried that patents on NGT plants could restrict access to biological material for further breeding work, thereby jeopardising breeding progress in the future. For this reason, further careful consideration is required to resolve the legal issues surrounding patent and plant variety protection in a way that is satisfactory to all parties involved. However, there is no direct legal link between European genetic engineering legislation and intellectual property legislation (patent and plant variety protection law), as is often suggested in the political debate. For this reason, the DFG is urging for the discussions on patent and plant variety protection law to be separated from the EU Commission’s regulatory proposal so as not to delay the latter.

“Science and research do not have much time left. Even if the Council of the EU and the European Parliament approve the Commission’s draft regulation next year, it would be two years from the entry into force of the regulation before its provisions can be applied in practice, according to the proposal. Up until that time, European researchers will still not benefit from easier regulatory conditions for working with NGT plants – unlike many of their non-European colleagues,” said Professor Dr. Hans-Georg Dederer at the Parliamentary Evening. Dederer is a Scientific Member of the DFG Senate Commission on Genetic Research.

In summer 2023, the EU Commission published a draft law that aims to reorganise the handling of new genomic techniques in plant breeding. The German federal government is currently working to establish a joint position on the legislative proposal. The Spanish EU Council Presidency is seeking to reach an agreement by the end of 2023.

Further information

Media contact:

Programme contact at the DFG Head Office:

The DFG has commented on the EU Commission’s proposal on several occasions together with the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina:

July 2023:

October 2023:

In January 2023, the DFG’s Permanent Senate Commission on Genetic Research published a detailed position paper on the topic: