Quantcast

Gene-Edited Products Now Classified as GMOs in European Union

GMO
CC0 Public Domain

The European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that organisms obtained by mutagenesis, or gene editing, are considered genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which mean they fall under the same strict EU rules that govern GMOs.

The decision is a victory for organic farming associations and environmentalists wary of "GMO 2.0" techniques such as CRISPR gene editing that alter an organism's DNA.


"These new 'GMO 2.0' genetic engineering techniques must be fully tested before they are let out in the countryside and into our food," Mute Schimpf, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said in a press release. "We welcome this landmark ruling which defeats the biotech industry's latest attempt to push unwanted genetically-modified products onto our fields and plates."

The biotech industry and other gene editing proponents believe the novel technique can revolutionize food production, medicine and other areas. Compared to older GMO technology, which typically involves inserting genetic material from one species to another, gene editing uses "molecular scissors" to edit DNA of live organisms. For instance, scientists have created a mushroom that resists browning by using the genome-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9.

The German chemical industry association VCL, which represents companies such as Bayer, BASF and Merck KGaA, was disappointed by the court's ruling, calling it "backward looking and hostile to progress," Reuters reported.

"It is damaging to the ability of the EU's biotech hub to innovate and disconnects it from developments in the rest of the world," VCL continued.

The case was brought to the European Court of Justice by French farmer unions that argued organisms obtained by mutagenesis should not be exempt from GMO rules under French law.

Today's decision means that GMO 2.0 foods and crops are subject to existing EU laws for GMOs, including safety assessments, clear labelling and traceability.

However, the court ruled that exemptions could be made for mutagenesis techniques that have been conventionally been used in a number of applications and have a long safety record.

In light of the decision, Schimpf of Friends of the Earth urged the EU and national lawmakers to "ensure that all new genetically modified products are fully tested, and they must also support the small-scale, nature-friendly agriculture we urgently need."

Bart Staes, the MEP of the Greens/EFA group, also applauded the decision.

"Just because the industry has come up with new ways to modify organisms does not mean that these techniques should be exempt from existing EU standards on GMOs," he said in a press release. "Recent scientific studies show that these new techniques might not be as accurate as the industry claims them to be, that's why it's essential that they come under the same labelling requirements and impact assessments as existing GMOs. These new patented organisms may have unintended effects, as well [as] the potential to increase our dependence on the agri-chemical industry, and therefore must be stringently monitored by the European Food Safety Authority for any risks to human, animal and environmental health."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Danielle Nierenberg and Katherine Walla

As the holiday season ramps up for many across the world, Food Tank is highlighting 15 children's books that will introduce young eaters, growers and innovators to the world of food and agriculture. Authors and organizations are working to show children the importance — and fun — of eating healthy, nutritious and delicious food, growing their own produce, and giving food to others in need.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

Purple cabbage, also referred to as red cabbage, belongs to the Brassica genus of plants. This group includes nutrient-dense vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Lauren Wolahan

For the first time ever, the UN is building out a roadmap for curbing carbon pollution from agriculture. To take part in that process, a coalition of U.S. farmers traveled to the UN climate conference in Madrid, Spain this month to make the case for the role that large-scale farming operations, long criticized for their outsized emissions, can play in addressing climate change.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

In recent years, acai bowls have become one of the most hyped-up health foods on the market.

They're prepared from puréed acai berries — which are fruits grown in Central and South America — and served as a smoothie in a bowl or glass, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds, or granola.

Read More Show Less
Investing in grid infrastructure would enable utilities to incorporate modern technology, making the grid more resilient and flexible. STRATMAN2 / FLICKR

By Elliott Negin

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' recent decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to scientists who developed rechargeable lithium-ion batteries reminded the world just how transformative they have been. Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones or electric cars. But it's their potential to store electricity generated by the sun and the wind at their peak that promises to be even more revolutionary, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting the planet from the worst consequences of climate change.

Read More Show Less