Trade and markets
 

Detail

Area
European Union
Commodity Group
Oilseeds, oils and meals
Commodity
Gene-edited crops
Date
18/07/2018
Policy Category
Other
Policy Instrument
GMO policy
Description
Ruled that crops and other organisms obtained through innovative genome editing techniques fall under EU laws regulating the use of GMOs, and are therefore subject to lengthy approval processes and stringent traceability, labelling and monitoring requirements.
Notes
The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that crops and other organisms obtained through recently improved genome editing techniques (also known as ‘gene-editing’ or ‘mutagenesis’) fall under EU laws regulating the use of GMOs. The ruling subjects the named organisms – as well as food and feed products containing them – to lengthy approval processes and stringent traceability, labelling and monitoring requirements. Only such organisms that have conventionally been used in a number of applications and have a long safety record may be exempted. Mutagenesis refers to a set of techniques that, unlike trans-genesis, make it possible to alter the genome of a living species without the insertion of foreign DNA, while causing mutations by changing (or ‘editing’) a few pieces of DNA code. Seed companies and research institutes around the world have shown interest in the new technique as it allows for faster and more precise breeding (see also MPPU Dec.’16, Jan.’18 & May’18). While the EU’s biotech industry pointed out that gene-editing hardly differs from mutagenesis that occurs naturally (or from long-established techniques that use chemical, radiation or other physical stimuli to induce mutations), the Court maintained that the risks linked to the new breeding methods might prove to be similar to those resulting from the production and release of GMOs. The Court’s position differs from that adopted in the United States, where, in March 2018, USDA chose not to regulate innovative plant breeding techniques such as genome editing, thereby lowering the cost for meeting regulatory requirements and expediting market entry. Other countries, including China, have taken a similar approach. According to private sources, in the last ten years, the highest number of patent applications using the new breeding techniques has been filed in China, followed, at some distance, by the US and the EU, where uncertainties regarding regulation and consumer acceptance persisted.