EU wants to ease rules for genome-editing in crops

The EU Commission wants to ease the rules regarding the use of genetic engineering in agriculture. The new regulations would apply specifically to plants that have been modified by means of genome editing in a way that would also be possible using conventional breeding methods, exempting them from the genetic modification rules that continue to apply to other designer plants. This would also eliminate the labelling requirement.

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

No longer Frankensteinian technology

No foreign genes are inserted into the crops in question, argues the Salzburger Nachrichten:

“The new methods no longer have anything in common with the old Frankensteinian monsters. No more foreign genes are implanted into fruit, vegetables or grain. Produce can now be modified with complete accuracy — the result is scientifically indistinguishable from a normal hybrid or natural mutation. Plants created in this way are to be exempted from the stringent regulations. No more labelling, no more approval tests, no more national bans on cultivation.”

Martin Stricker
taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Let consumers retain their freedom of choice

The taz rejects the proposal:

“Because it takes away consumers’ freedom of choice to dispense with GM food. ... Not everyone can afford to or wants to buy organic products in which GM varieties remain banned. It is unlikely that genetically modified foods are unhealthier but many people still want to avoid them, for example because the risks can never be entirely ruled out. Or because innovative genetic engineering is also used to facilitate environmentally harmful agriculture — for example by making plants resistant to pesticides and not, as is often claimed, to diseases.”

Jost Maurin
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Potentially a major step forward

For the Neue Zürcher Zeitung the real challenge will be to make consumers understand the advantages of the new methods:

“With deregulation, the EU Commission is making innovations possible — especially for small seed producers. After all, modern genetic engineering methods are well established in laboratories, easy to handle and inexpensive. ... This legal framework could mark a major step forward. But for that to be the case, scientists and researchers must also deliver. They must produce GM plants that serve not only the interests of companies, but also those of nature conservation and the farmers. And the Herculean task for all advocates of modern breeding methods will be to convince consumers of the benefits of modern GM crops.”

Stephanie Lahrtz