On 29 April 2021, the European Commission published a working document on the legal future of ‘New Genomic Techniques’ in Europe. In its document, the Commission appears to be convinced that new genetic engineering techniques (NGTs) are an important part of their wider sustainability agenda and in line with the EU Green Deal and the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.
This study could set into motion a European processes exploring options for a new legal framework if EU Member States give their green light. If the Ministers of the Member States go along with the line of the Commission, a new legal framework could create a challenging situation. This is because on the one hand, the Commission seeks to increase organic land and agroecological production, and on the other hand they also intend to promote farming systems relying on GMOs. The organic food and farming movement criticises the Commission’s plan to take NGTs out of the existing legal framework applying to GMOs for agriculture & food as it could leave organic food systems unprotected – including its ability to trace GMOs throughout the food chain to avoid contaminations leading to economic losses and to live up to organic quality standards and consumer expectations.
What can you do?
IFOAM Organics Europe will be heavily involved in this policy debate, representing the European organic movement. We are sending targeted emails to our Council members on this matter. You can reach out to your national Council member, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
[i] Pioneer HT Maize DP915635 (application for approval in EU submitted), Sanatech Sicilian Rouge High GABA, Calyxt FAD2KO “high-oleic acid” soybean variety, Cibus HT Canola.
[ii] According to the European Council (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32019D1904&from=EN), new genomic techniques [new mutagenesis techniques] must be defined in the light of the ECJ ruling in case C-528/16. They therefore include all genetic modification techniques “which appeared or were mostly developed since Directive 2001/18 was adopted” (para 51 of the Ruling of the European Court of Justice, 25 July 2018, Case C 528/16, http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=204387&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=709582).
The ECJ ruling states that “the risks linked to the use of those new techniques/methods of mutagenesis might prove to be similar to those which result from the production and release of a GMO through transgenesis. It thus follows from the material before the Court, first, that the direct modification of the genetic material of an organism through mutagenesis makes it possible to obtain the same effects as the introduction of a foreign gene into that organism and, secondly, that the development of those new techniques/methods makes it possible to produce genetically modified varieties at a rate and in quantities quite unlike those resulting from the application of conventional methods of random mutagenesis.“ (para. 48 of ECJ ruling quoted in note [i])