The European Commission has opened the door to a possible easing of restrictions on plants resulting from gene-editing technology after launching a review of EU rules on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Driven by a 2018 ruling from the highest court in the European Union that techniques for modifying an organism’s genome should be governed by existing EU rules on GMOs, the EC concluded that its legislation on 2001 was “not suited to its purpose” Reuters reported.
The 2018 judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that crops obtained from techniques that modify genetic material should be subject to the same rules as GMOs, including controls and labeling of the content of products.
Gene-editing technology such as CRISPR targets specific genes within an organism to promote certain characteristics or inhibit others, while genetic modification involves the transfer of a gene from one type of organism. to another. GMOs are rarely used for cultivation in the EU due to long-standing fears of their effects on the environment, and some campaign groups say gene editing carries similar risks, Reuters reported.
But the biotech industry has argued that much of gene editing simply speeds up processes that occur naturally, and that GMO-like regulation would hamper efforts to develop sustainable crops or advance science. human disease research.
A 117-page Commission study found that new genomic techniques (NGTs) had the potential to contribute to sustainable diets while recognizing that there were concerns about safety, environmental impact and the issue of labeling.
The Commission said it would consult with national governments and other interested parties, produce an impact assessment and conduct a public consultation.
The EC’s announcement drew support from German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner, saying that relaxing the legal framework for gene editing would represent “overdue modernization” and could help farmers produce enough seed. food in a sustainable way.
Industry group Euroseeds said it was calling for “urgent action” to implement differentiated rules for gene editing.
However, the ecological group Greenpeace rejected separate treatment for gene editing, claiming that “GMOs under any other name are still GMOs”.