New GM techniques
A recent victory for environmental campaigners saw the European Court of Justice rule on 25 July 2018 that new genetic engineering techniques count as GM and must be properly regulated.
Why does it matter?
European GM regulations mean that GM food and crops are risk-assessed, traceable and labelled. However, a large number of new genetic engineering techniques have been developed since the EU’s GM regulations were developed.
Many different media-friendly names are given to these new techniques, including “new plant breeding techniques”, “advanced breeding techniques” and “bioengineered”. But it isn’t the name that matters, it’s the fact that all of this re-branding is an attempt to avoid proper regulation.
Proponents claim that techniques such as CRISPR and other forms of genome editing are different because they are more precise and don’t usually add genes from other species. However, they do involve changing the genome in the lab in ways we are only just beginning to understand.
These new genetic engineering techniques have no history of safe use and must be subject to proper regulation because:
They are not as precise as we are led to believe and precision is not the same as predictability. All of these techniques can give rise to unexpected effects.
All genetic engineering techniques must be subject to proper regulation and traceability, whatever name you give them.
More about and in response to the ruling
FIND OUT MORE: articles and blogs
GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill discussing the European Court Advocate General’s opinion on the legal status of mutagenesis, on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today (available to listen until 20 February 2018)
Biotech lobby and the NBT Platform, in The Ecologist
FIND OUT MORE: reports, papers and briefings
ECJ ruling: will ‘GMO 2.0’ be introduced to Europe’s Fields through the back door? – Briefing from Friends of the Earth, Europe (in advance of the ECJ ruling)
Briefing on the European Court of Justice ruling on genetically modified crops produced via mutagenesis – from Beyond GM (in advance of the ECJ ruling)
Products of new genetic modification techniques should be strictly regulated as GMOs – Statement from the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibilty.
Resolution on consumer concerns about new genetic engineering techniques – Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue