Commission re-examines genomic techniques

30 April 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘…New Genomic Techniques can promote sustainability of agricultural production…’

The European Commission has published a study on New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) which indicates that the technology has the potential to contribute to sustainable food systems as well as benefiting other sectors of society. The study also concludes that current GMO legislation, adopted in 2001, is not fit for purpose with regard to the new technologies. The Commission will now start a ‘wide and open consultation process’ to discuss the design of a new legal framework for NGTs. The study was requested by the Council of the European Union.

The Commission defines NGTs as ‘techniques that are capable of altering the genetic material of an organism and have emerged or have been developed since 2001, when the current legislation on genetically modified organisms was adopted.’

The study confirms that NGTs, and their products, have developed rapidly in the last 20 years and there is considerable interest in research on new genomic techniques in the EU, but most of the development is taking place outside the EU. The study indicates that the current regulatory framework is negatively impacting public and private research on NGTs.

The study does point out that the use of NGTs ‘raises ethical concerns.’ But opportunities’ being missed as a result of not using NGTs also raises concerns. However, based on the findings, the study indicates that most ethical concerns relate to how these techniques are used, rather than the techniques themselves.

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides commented: ‘The study we have published 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.’

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