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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

ECJ rules in favour of tough regulation for new GM techniques

Comment (25 Jul 2018)

Liz O'Neill: 07811 211 404

UK umbrella campaign GM Freeze today welcomed a European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision to ensure proper regulation of controversial new genetic engineering techniques.

Supporting the position taken by environmental campaigners, the judgement states that organisms obtained by mutagenesis are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In addition, it states clearly that the only techniques that can escape full GMO regulation are those that already had a history of safe use in 2001.

Commenting on the news, GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill said:

This case was portrayed by industry as an argument about definition but the court has seen sense and made it clear that what actually matters is how we regulate emerging technologies that have the potential to permanently alter the ecosystem.

The genome is a far more complex system than we used to believe – more like a biological super-computer than the DNA model my 13-year-old son made for his science homework a few weeks ago. The fact that one can create a passable visual representation of DNA from garden twine, pasta, polystyrene packing balls and four different coloured felt-tips doesn’t mean that altering the genome is as straightforward or predictable as moving those polystyrene balls around.

All genetic engineering techniques give rise to both unexpected changes and unpredictable real-world impacts. We are delighted that this ruling will ensure their use in our fields and our food will be subject to detailed safety checks, monitoring and traceability.


Case C-528/16 (Confederation paysanne and Others) concerns the status of certain mutagenesis-based genetic engineering techniques. It was referred to the ECJ in 2016, after a group of farmers and environmental organisations called for crops created by these techniques to be treated as GMOs. The ECJ press release can be found online.

GM Freeze is the UK umbrella campaign on GM in food and farming. We are working to help create a world in which everyone’s food is produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably. More on our position on new genetic engineering techniques can be found on our website.

For further information, comments and interviews please contact Liz O’Neill on 07811 211 404,