Half a Million Euro to Support Projects in Biodynamic Vegetable Breeding

Group photo
From left: E. Röder, M. Schmitt, M. Fleck, S. Bauer, Photo: BNN

Last Wednesday, the Association of Organic Processors, Wholesalers and Retailers (Bundesverband Naturkost Naturwaren, BNN) announced that it will provide financial support for privately financed organic vegetable breeders in a total amount of at least 470,000 Euros. In front of almost 600 gathered guests, BNN President Meinrad Schmitt handed over the symbolic key of success to Kultursaat President Michael Fleck.

“Without independent organic plant breeding, there is a danger that organic farmers, and thus also organic food processors and retailers, will become dependent on the large seed and chemical companies. That's why BNN has long been offering private funding. Simply put, seed is the foundation of all food production, and its preservation and further development are a mandate for society. But BNN doesn't just offer financial support; it is a pioneer,” said Meinrad Schmitt at BNN's evening event, which took place during BIOFACH, the world's largest trade fair for organic food and agriculture, in Nuremberg. 

The funds were donated in part by an initiative of BNN members and participants in BNN's monitoring for fruit and vegetables. Funding was also provided by the Software AG Foundation, which supports non-profit research in organic and biodynamic seed breeding. “We congratulate BNN on this remarkable and important step and are pleased to see that the member companies of the Association are assuming responsibility for the entire value chain with respect to the topic of seed breeding,” said Sebastian Bauer of the Software AG Foundation.

The funds will be used to support a total of 37 existing programs over a period of 5 years. The funding will allow the projects to work more intensively and effectively under the umbrella of Kultursaat e.V. und saat:gut e.V.  The objective is to further develop the range of organically grown and officially approved, true-to-seed vegetable varieties*, which are intended to provide an alternative to so-called CMS hybrids created by cell fusion** – for example, broccoli, cauliflower, and chicory.

“This support is of great important to us, and not only for financial reasons. The multi-year commitment provides important planning security: plant variety development doesn't happen overnight, of course. And to see that growers and trade are facing the challenges as partners – that is another strong motivation for us,” said Michael Fleck of Kultursaat e.V. in thanks. 

The initiative includes the following companies: Achleitner Biohof GmbH, BioTropic Gesellschaft zur Erzeugung und zum Vertrieb ökologischer Produkte mbH, Bio-Ilios GmbH, BIOGROS SA, Bodan GmbH, Chiemgauer Naturkosthandel GmbH, ebl-naturkost GmbH & Co. KG, Kornkraft Naturkost GmbH, Naturkost Erfurt GmbH, Naturkost Kontor Bremen GmbH, naturkost nord Großhandelsgesellschaft mbH, Naturkost Schramm Import/Export GmbH, Naturkost West GmbH, Ökoring Handels GmbH, Rinklin Naturkost GmbH, Terra Naturkost Handels KG.

* True-to-seed vegetable varieties are the result of traditional plant breeding by means of crossing and selection; breeding goals include colour, form, taste and resistance. Seeds obtained from vegetables of these varieties produce plants with the same characteristics in the next generation.

** To create CMS Brassica vegetables or chicory, cell fusion methods are used in the laboratory; the organic industry has viewed these methods critically for some time. German organic farming associations forbade the use of CMS hybrids resulting from cell fusion in its guidelines years ago and are, together with BNN, working to obtain clear labelling for produce varieties developed this way.