The scientific community urges the EU to revise the GMO Directive to reflect current knowledge on genome editing
The European Sustainable Agriculture through Genome Editing (EU-SAGE) network, with members from 132 European research institutes and associations, including CRAG, has published an open statement addressed to the European Commission, Parliament and Council urging to reconsider their stance on genome editing, which is one of the tools needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
In July 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled the case c-528/16 classifying plants obtained with modern techniques of genome editing, such as CRISPR-Cas9, as genetically modified organisms (GMO) that need to undergo the extensive pre-market risk evaluations laid down in the EU Directive 2001/18/EC. In practice, this means that genome-edited crops in which the edit is not different from a mutation that is present in nature or can be achieved by conventional breeding methods, need to go through a laborious and expensive process before being approved for cultivation in Europe. Since then, European plant scientists have been alerting about the obstacle that this legislation means towards achieving a sustainable agriculture and food production in Europe. Now, coinciding with the second anniversary of the the c-528/16 ressoluction, the EU-SAGE has launched an open statement.
The open statement mentions global goals such as the development of an agriculture that is less dependent on the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and that is able to provide with sufficient, nutritious and affordable food, and also European weaknesses, such as its dependence on agricultural imports from outside the EU.
Different legislative frameworks around the globe
"The regulatory approach for genome-edited crops in Europe is completely out of line with the regulations existing in other continents across the world that have adopted more ‘fit for purpose’ regulations. The lack of regulatory harmonization worldwide poses challenges in global trade and in the seed sector and it hampers the innovation and scientific progress in Europe, which is very much needed for achieving Sustainable Development and Green Deal Goals." says the Open Statement.
The graphic below these lines shows the recent developments worldwide on the legal status of genome editing. It shows that currently only Europe and New Zealand have the most restrictive legislation towards genome editing applications compared to other parts of the world. This graphic is updated on the most recent developments and investments in genome editing in China and Russia as well as ongoing discussions in Africa and central America.
The full open statement can be accessed in the right side of this page. Catalan and Spanish translations of the Open Statement have been kindly provided by the University of Valencia and the I2Sysbio.