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Commission signals that gene edited crops may soon be permitted in the EU, as it calls existing GMO rules ‘unfit for purpose’

The European Commission has signalled that gene editing techniques such CRISPR/Cas may soon be exempted from current EU rules on GMOs.

In 2018 the European Court of Justice ruled that new GMOs must be regulated under the existing EU GMO laws, as to exempt them “would compromise the objective of protection” and “would fail to respect the precautionary principle”. 

A new study published by the Commission today asserts that new genetic modification techniques, which it groups under the term ‘New genomic Techniques’ (NGTs), “have the potential to contribute to a more sustainable food system as part of the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy“. 

At the same time, the study claims that the current GMO legislation, adopted in 2001, is “not fit for purpose for these innovative technologies”. 

The Commission says it will now start a “wide and open consultation” process to discuss the design of a new legal framework for these biotechnologies.

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said: “The study we publish today concludes that New Genomic Techniques can promote the sustainability of agricultural production, in line with the objectives of our Farm to Fork Strategy. With the safety of consumers and the environment as the guiding principle, now is the moment to have an open dialogue with citizens, Member States and the European Parliament to jointly decide the way forward for the use of these biotechnologies in the EU.”

The study will be discussed with EU ministers at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in May. The Commission says it will also discuss its findings with the European Parliament and all interested stakeholders.

In the coming months, an impact assessment, including a public consultation, will be carried out to explore policy options concerning the regulation of plants derived from certain NGTs.

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