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OPEN LETTER

37 Nobel laureates and over 1,500 scientists call on MEPs to support new genomic techniques

 

Dear Members of the European Parliament, 

 

In these times of climate crisis, biodiversity loss and renewed food insecurity, a scientific and evidence-based approach is essential in every respect. Now, more than ever, we must rise above ideology and dogmatism. That is why we, the undersigned, turn to you, and urge you to carefully consider the benefits of embracing New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) in your upcoming parliamentary decisions. 

 

As concerned citizens who believe in the power of science to improve our lives and our relationship with the planet, we implore you to vote in favour of NGTs, thus aligning your decisions with the advancements in scientific understanding. Conventional breeding of climate-resilient crops (with cross-breeding of certain traits, then subsequent selection and finally backcrossing to remove undesirable traits) is too time-consuming. It takes years, decades even. We do not have this time in an era of climate emergency.  

 

There are also many plants which, due to their specific genetic characteristics, are very difficult to breed by conventional means, such as fruit trees, grape vines or potatoes. And these crops just happen to require most of the harmful pesticides used in the European Union to protect them against pests and diseases. But just as with climate resilience, NGTs can dramatically improve this situation. NGTs help to make crop plants resilient to disease by precise and targeted edits to their genetic code, thus making our ambitious and vital goals of pesticide reduction possible while still protecting farmers’ yields. It comes as no surprise, then, that as a result, many of Europe’s hard-working farmers - including a growing number of organic producers - are enthusiastic supporters of NGTs.

This is why fast, targeted and favorable breeding methods need to be added to the plant breeder’s toolbox. The draft law on the regulation of NGT plants is therefore an important step that we support in view of our mission of enhancing environmental sustainability in food, farming and energy. The responsible use of NGTs that the legislation could unlock may contribute significantly to our collective pursuit of a more resilient, environmentally conscious and food-secure future. 

 

NGTs hold immense promise for sustainable agriculture, enhanced food security and innovative medical solutions. But opportunities can also be seen in new jobs and greater economic prosperity. A recent report showed that failure to allow NGTs could cost the European economy 300 billion euros annually in ‘benefits forgone’ across multiple sectors. This is the cost of saying ‘no’ to scientific progress. 

We, the undersigned, therefore encourage you to engage with the overwhelming majority of farmers and genuine experts, not with reactive anti-science lobbyists in the Brussels bubble. We ask you to consider the unequivocal body of scientific evidence supporting NGTs, and make decisions that align with the European Union’s and its citizens’ best interests. Your support for NGTs will not only foster innovation but also position the EU as a leader in responsible and evidence-based policymaking around the world. Leaders in Africa, for example, are watching closely what you decide, as are African scientists who have NGT climate-resilient cassava, banana, maize and other staple crops ready to go. 

We appreciate your attention to this matter, and trust that with your support the EU Parliament can reject the darkness of anti-science fearmongering and look instead towards the light of prosperity and progress. 

Sincerely, 

The Undersigned 

Emmanuelle Charpentier, Nobel Laureate Chemistry, 2020

Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Laureate Chemistry, 2020

Sir Richard John Roberts, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine 1993

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University

Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University 

Roger D Kornberg, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2006

Craig Mello, Nobel Laureate Physiology or Medicine 2006

Peter Doherty,  Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine 1995

Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate, Physics 1979

Charles M Rice, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine 2020

Konstantin Sergeevich Novoselov, Nobel Laureate, Physics 1979

David Baltimore, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine 1975 

John Mather, Nobel Laureate, Physics 2006

Randy W. Schekman, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine 2013

Gregg L. Semenza, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine 2019

Takaaki Kajita, Nobel Laureate, Physics, 2015

May Britt Moser, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine 2014

Edvard Moser, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine 2014

Jerome I. Friedman, Nobel Laureate, Physics, 1990

Christiane Nusslein Volhard, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 1995

F. Duncan M. Haldane, Nobel Laureate Physics 2016

Lars Peter Hansen, Nobel Laureate Economics 2013

Eric S. Maskin, Nobel Laureate, Economics 2007

Sir Oliver Hart, Nobel Laureate Economics 2016

Edmund S. Phelps, Nobel Laureate, Economics 2006

Mario R. Capecchi, Nobel Laureate  Physiology or Medicine 2007

Martin Chalfie, Nobel Laureate Chemistry 2008

Barry J. Marshall, Nobel Laureate Physiology or Medicine 2005

Harold E. Varmus, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 1989

George F. Smoot, Nobel Laureate Physics 2006

Hartmut Michel, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry 1988

Erwin Neher, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine 1991

Barry Clark Barish, Nobel Laureate Physics  2017

Eric F. Wieschaus, Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 1995

Brian Kobilka, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, 2012

Kurt Wuthrich, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, 2002

Fynn Kydland, Nobel Laureate, Economics 2004

Thomas R. Cech, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry 1989

W. E. Moerner, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry 2014

 

+ over 1,500 other scientists. Please see the full, and growing, list here.

 

Letter coordinated by Hidde Boersma, Ph.D.  at WePlanet

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