Crop Biotech Update

EU Ministers Discuss Proposal on NGTs for the First Time

July 27, 2023

Agriculture Ministers from the European Union (EU) have met to discuss for the first time the European Commission's (EC) recent proposal on new genomic techniques (NGTs). The discussion saw many EU agriculture ministers welcome the Commission's proposed loosening of gene editing rules as a building block for sustainable farming, while others voiced concerns over potential risks.

The draft proposal to deregulate certain NGTs was released in early July. While certain traceability requirements would remain in place for all gene-edited crops, the draft foresees that NGT-based plants that are indistinguishable from ones obtained by conventional breeding should be treated like their conventional counterparts. The Commission views NGTs as a key element to make farming more sustainable in the EU, as enshrined in the objectives of the Green Deal, while still ensuring sufficient levels of food production. “This proposal illustrates our commitment to give farmers the tools that they need,” Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said during the meeting. This view was shared by many of the Ministers:

  • Luis Planas from Spain, who is the current chair of the EU Agriculture Council said that the proposal “is very important not only for the public but also for the agricultural sector," and added that it will show farmers that “we have problems to solve, but we are looking at alternatives to make progress”.
  • Italian junior minister Luigi D'Eramo said NGTs represent “the most effective instrument that we have at our disposal in the agricultural sector to improve the sustainability of production.”
  • France's Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau also hailed the proposal as an “important and long-awaited step.” Fesneau also called for swift progress on the file, which risks not being adopted before the EU elections in June 2024.
  • By making NGTs available, “the EU's position on international markets is reinforced, and we can catch up with our competitors who already use these genetic techniques,” Finnish minister Sari Essayah said.

However, a number of Ministers also voiced concern over the proposal, with criticism coming from Hungary and Austria, who stressed that a way of farming without genetically modified organisms (GMO) must remain possible.

For more details, read the article in Euractiv.

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