New plant-breeding techniques: Applicability of GM rules

10-05-2016

New plant genetic modification (GM) techniques have evolved rapidly in recent years, allowing much faster and more precise results than conventional plant-breeding techniques. They are seen as a promising new field for the agri-food industry, offering great technical potential. There is, however, considerable debate as to how these new techniques should be regulated and whether some or all of them should fall within the scope of EU legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are two sides to the discussion. Those who take the view that the new techniques should be exempt from GMO legislation generally argue that the end product is very similar to products generated using conventional breeding techniques. Those who consider that the new techniques should fall within the scope of GMO legislation contend that the processes used mean that plants bred using the new techniques are in fact genetically modified. The Commission is currently working on a legal interpretation of the regulatory status of products generated by new plant-breeding techniques, which should be published in the course of 2016. The Commission has highlighted that its legal interpretation is intended to give guidance to national authorities on the scope of GMO legislation, but that it is the sole prerogative of the European Court of Justice to render a final and binding opinion on the interpretation of EU law. The scientific community remains divided over the issue, and various published legal analyses differ, as do the opinions of other stakeholders.

New plant genetic modification (GM) techniques have evolved rapidly in recent years, allowing much faster and more precise results than conventional plant-breeding techniques. They are seen as a promising new field for the agri-food industry, offering great technical potential. There is, however, considerable debate as to how these new techniques should be regulated and whether some or all of them should fall within the scope of EU legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are two sides to the discussion. Those who take the view that the new techniques should be exempt from GMO legislation generally argue that the end product is very similar to products generated using conventional breeding techniques. Those who consider that the new techniques should fall within the scope of GMO legislation contend that the processes used mean that plants bred using the new techniques are in fact genetically modified. The Commission is currently working on a legal interpretation of the regulatory status of products generated by new plant-breeding techniques, which should be published in the course of 2016. The Commission has highlighted that its legal interpretation is intended to give guidance to national authorities on the scope of GMO legislation, but that it is the sole prerogative of the European Court of Justice to render a final and binding opinion on the interpretation of EU law. The scientific community remains divided over the issue, and various published legal analyses differ, as do the opinions of other stakeholders.