New plant-breeding techniques: Applicability of EU GMO rules

10-10-2019

New plant genetic modification techniques, referred to as 'gene editing' or 'genome editing', have evolved rapidly in recent years, allowing much faster and more precise results than conventional plant-breeding techniques. They are seen as a promising innovative 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). 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, or that similar changes could also occur naturally. 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. In July 2018, the European Court of Justice gave a judgment ruling that genome-edited organisms fall under the scope of European GMO legislation. While welcomed by some, the judgment has also sparked criticism and calls for the new European Commission to amend EU GMO legislation. This is an updated edition of a 2016 Briefing.

New plant genetic modification techniques, referred to as 'gene editing' or 'genome editing', have evolved rapidly in recent years, allowing much faster and more precise results than conventional plant-breeding techniques. They are seen as a promising innovative 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). 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, or that similar changes could also occur naturally. 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. In July 2018, the European Court of Justice gave a judgment ruling that genome-edited organisms fall under the scope of European GMO legislation. While welcomed by some, the judgment has also sparked criticism and calls for the new European Commission to amend EU GMO legislation. This is an updated edition of a 2016 Briefing.