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Crop Biotech Update

European Commission Study Shows Potential for Agriculture of New Genomic Techniques and Need for New Policy

May 5, 2021

The European Commission has published a study on new genomic techniques (NGTs) that shows the techniques have the potential to contribute to a more sustainable food system as part of the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy. The study also finds that the current GMO legislation adopted in 2001, is not fit for purpose for these innovative technologies. The Commission will now start a wide and open consultation process to discuss the design of a new legal framework for these biotechnologies.

The study was prepared after a request from the Council of the European Union asked the Commission on November 8, 2019, to carry out "a study in light of the Court of Justice's judgment in Case C-528/16 regarding the status of novel genomic techniques under Union law." The main findings of the study are:

  • NGT products have the potential to contribute to sustainable food systems with plants more resistant to diseases, environmental conditions, and climate change effects. Moreover, the products can benefit from higher nutritional qualities such as healthier fatty acid content and reduced need for agricultural inputs such as pesticides;
  • By contributing to the EU's objectives of innovation and sustainability of food systems, as well as a more competitive economy, NGTs can have benefits for many sectors of our societies;
  • At the same time, the study also analyzed concerns associated with NGT products and their current and future applications. Concerns included the possible safety and environmental impact, for example, on biodiversity, the coexistence with organic and GM-free agriculture, as well as labeling;
  • NGTs are a very diverse set of techniques and can achieve different results, with some plant products produced by NGTs being as safe as conventionally bred plants for human and animal health and for the environment;
  • The study finds that there are strong indications that the current 2001 GMO legislation is not fit for purpose for some NGTs and their products, and that it needs adaptation to scientific and technological progress.

The study will be discussed with EU ministers at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council this month. The Commission will also discuss its findings with the European Parliament and all interested stakeholders.

For more details, read the European Commission's press release. The study is also available on the Commission's website.

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