Dirk Inzé Dirk Inzé is a full Professor at Ghent University and Director of the Center for Plant Systems Biology of the VIB. Under his directorship, the Center became one of the global leading centers for advanced plant sciences. In 2017, Dirk was awarded the prestigious World Agriculture Prize. He is the chairperson of EU-SAGE, a consortium of 142 European plant research institutes advocating for the use of gene editing for a sustainable agriculture (www.eu-sage.com).


Gene editing for crop improvement: the quest for science-based policymaking


All that we eat is the product of plant breeding, steered by various innovations. In 2012 a new breeding technology, gene editing or CRIPSR-Cas, emerged. This Nobel-Prize winning method allows for making very specific changes in the genome of plants, ultimately indistinguishable from what can be obtained by conventional breeding. Whereas already a large number of countries have adopted this technology for crop improvement, a ruling of the European Court of Justice (2018) classified plants obtained by gene editing as GMOs, de facto jeopardizing the deployment of CRISPR-Cas in Europe. Importantly, scientists all over Europe have expressed deep concerns about the ECJ ruling and called for revisiting the use of gene editing for crop improvement, a process that is now ongoing in the EU. However, it is pivotal that the scientific community continues to emphasize the crucial role of gene editing for the selection of climate resilient crop varieties with a reduced environmental footprint.