New regulation of genetically engineered plants should be completely revised or rejected
18 July 2023 / Testbiotech is today publishing a backgrounder on the first analysis of the EU Commission proposal for the future EU regulation of plants obtained from NGTs (new genomic techniques, or new genetic engineering, New GE). The aim is to identify some of the fundamental elements that need be taken into account in further discussions on the proposal, in particular with regard to risk assessment. Testbiotech recommends that the EU Commission proposal is rejected unless they undergo major revision and amendments. For this purpose, Testbiotech is making first suggestions.
From a scientific perspective, Testbiotech sees no possibility of exempting specific groups of New GE plants from mandatory risk assessment. In short, there are two reasons for this:
(1) In most cases, NGTs are used to achieve genomic changes which go beyond what is known from conventional breeding, even without the insertion of additional genes. Detailed analysis and molecular risk assessment are, therefore, necessary in each case to identify the differences and similarities between NGTs and conventional breeding before any conclusions can be drawn.
(2) While it is possible to target a specific site in the genome with gene scissors, it is not possible to sufficiently predict or control the result of these interventions either in the genome, the plants or the environment. Therefore, the risk assessment should not be restricted to the intended effects of the final products, but has to include the unintended effects caused by the processes.
Testbiotech comes to the overall conclusion that the introduction of New GE plants cannot be regarded as sustainable if it may cause
• ecosystems to collapse,
• health risks to accumulate unnoticed in food,
• breeding to be disrupted by patents,
• or the end of choice for consumers.
Therefore, the proposal as presented by the EU Commission has to be rejected.
Christoph Then, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel + 49 151 54638040