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Crop Biotech Update

Study Concludes Risk and Unnaturalness Cannot Justify EU's Strict GMO Policy

May 2, 2019

In an article in Transgenic Research, three researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark argue that risk and unnaturalness of GMO plants cannot justify the restrictive regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the European Union (EU). The researchers state that EU regulation may stand in the way of important agricultural innovation that could provide more sustainable and climate-friendly solutions.

Andreas Christiansen from the University of Copenhagen said that the introduction of new varieties with compositional differences always poses a risk whether they are genetically modified or not. The authors emphasize that GMO crops should not be treated differently than similar products when the risks they pose to the environment and people are comparable.

Addressing the concern of unnaturalness, Christiansen said that it is a common argument against GMO crops and foods, and it is mentioned specifically in EU legislation. The researchers are trying to ascertain whether the kind of "unnaturalness" which GMO's supposedly possess can justify bans and restrictive legislation. They point out that GMOs are unnatural in the sense that it has been subjected to at least one more change than the conventionally bred plant upon which it is based. However, the conventionally bred plant is much more unnatural than its wild ancestor, and has mutated so many times that it may in some cases be difficult to see any relation between to two.

"It is, in other words, really difficult to construct a solid argument to the effect that the distinction between natural and unnatural can warrant stricter regulation of GMO's – even if we consider the best philosophical arguments for the value of nature and naturalness," Christiansen adds.

For more details, read the article in the University of Copenhagen website.