EU-SAGE welcomes the European Commission's regulatory proposal for plants obtained by certain new genomic techniques and their food and feed
EU-SAGE is of the opinion that the European Commission’s regulatory proposal is an important step in creating a proportionate regulatory environment that would enable the use of genome-edited crops for sustainable agriculture. It addresses two of the main concerns about the current EU GMO legislation: (1) the fact that under the current GMO legislation it is virtually impossible to get a crop authorized for cultivation, and (2) the regulatory discrimination of plants with targeted edits that similarly occur in conventionally bred plants.
Genome editing, through the use of CRISPR, is a versatile breeding technology that enables scientists and plant breeders to introduce desired properties into crop plants in a much more targeted and faster manner. It can shorten the plant breeding cycle by 25% or more. This is important in view of the current climate crisis and the need to protect our environment and support biodiversity. Genome editing can help to generate climate adapted and other beneficial crops in a more efficient manner.
EU-SAGE appreciates that in the European Commission’s regulatory proposal a category I of conventional-like NGT plants is created to which the Union GMO rules would not apply. Crops that fall into this category would be subject to the legislation that applies to the registration of new plant varieties. For this registration, new plant varieties are subjected to multi-year testing of traits at multiple locations.
The proposal introduces labeling of the use of genome editing technology on the seed bag. Together with the proposed database of verified category I NGT plants this will contribute to transparency on the development and use of category I NGT plants.
EU-SAGE has questions related to the criteria of equivalence of NGT plants to conventional plants, particularly about the number of allowed gene edits per plant and how this should be interpreted.
The proposal includes a verification mechanism through which the member states determine whether a NGT crops fulfills the criteria for a category I NGT crop. It is not clear from the proposal what information is regarded necessary and sufficient to qualify as a category I NGT crop. EU-SAGE is of the opinion that the requirements should be science-based and uniformly implemented.
EU-SAGE is a network representing plants scientists at more than 150 European plant science institutes and societies that have joined forces to provide information about genome editing and promote the development of European and EU member state policies that enable the use of genome editing for sustainable agriculture and food production.