Parliament reinforces support for GMO deregulation

Parliament reinforces support for GMO deregulation

The European Parliament has confirmed that plants created using new gene-editing techniques should be removed from the scope of a 2001 directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and the creation of two new categories of crops to be subject to a lighter regulatory touch.

MEPs originally voted in favour of the legislation in February, effectively calling for a regulatory regime where a plant that has only had a limited number of point changes to made to its DNA sequence would be subject to more or less the same rules as a conventionally bred crop strain.

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The vote was deemed necessary because governments have so far failed to reach a joint position on the file in the EU Council, meaning the inter-institutional talks required to produce a final legislative text are unlikely to begin before the EU election in June.

Today’s (24 April) vote finalises the parliament’s first-reading position, meaning the newly elected house will not have to start from scratch when it convenes in July, a parliamentary official told Euronews.

The lobby group Euroseeds – whose members include agrochemical giants Bayer, BASF and Syngenta – welcomed the parliament’s move, which it took as an endorsement of the potential of new genomic techniques (NGTs) to “boost competitiveness, sustainability, and food security across Europe”.

“Now, we call on the Council to build on this momentum and swiftly secure a majority for the final adoption of the new NGT legislation,” secretary general Garlich von Essen said. “Europe’s plant breeders and farmers urgently need to be enabled to harness the benefits of NGTs to successfully address the pressing agricultural challenges and deliver sustainable solutions.”

Environmental groups have from the off campaigned against a regulatory reform they see it opening a market for next-generation GMOs, whose potential environmental and health impact have not been sufficiently taken into account.

The German NGO Testbiotech last week cited recent research it said refuted the claims of NGT backers that the new class of GMOs could equally be produced, albeit more slowly, through conventional breeding, and urged the European Food Safety Authority to re-examine its earlier advice on the safety of NGT products.


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