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Our food supply is under pressure due to a growing world population and meat consumption, bio fuels, crop failures and loss of biodiversity as a result of climate change. Organic farming could do much to reverse the situation.

One would assume that organically grown seeds are at the source of biological agriculture. This is often not the case however, as there are very few companies that supply 100% organic seeds. Therefore organic farmers still frequently use non-organic seeds. Varieties resulting from conventional plant breeding are aimed at high-input agriculture (in which chemical pesticides are used) and are therefore not suitable for organic agriculture, which strives for a stable production without the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers.

Professor Edith Lammerts van Bueren has been a significant influence in organic plant breeding and seed production developments. She has ensured these subjects have been placed on the social agenda, both nationally and internationally. What does organic breeding actually involve? It means cultivating plant varieties that are reproducible, with a high level of resistance to diseases and the ability to adapt to its natural environment. It is also important that the ‘laws of nature' are respected with regard to cross-fertilisation. Food originating from these plants supports a sound constitution. The quality of vegetables and grains consumed these days, bread made of wheat that only matures after treatment with pesticides for example, will continue to impact our health, environment and our planet. Seed varieties with a greater natural resistance should be developed.

Lammerts van Bueren considers her chair to be an opportunity for scientifically underlining new initiatives and concepts within the organic sector. The organic farming sector rejects genetic engineering for example, but still needs to develop new varieties, adjusted to current taste and modern society. Science, seed industry and government should ideally collaborate in such a way that suitable crop is developed for various types of soil. Besides effective PR, innovation and research are essential to further develop the production of organic foods.