EU opens to GMOs: what changes with the new genomic techniques

Elizabeth Smith

The European Commission recently presented a proposal for a regulation covering the use of new genomic techniques (NGTs). This communication marks an important step change by Europe toward genetic innovation in agriculture, compared to current legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The proposal provides a partial exemption from GMO legislation for plants obtained through NGTs, introducing two separate pathways for placing these plants on the market. The new legislation will define two categories of NGT plants. Those comparable to naturally occurring or conventional plants, and those with more complex modifications.

The two categories will be subject to different requirements in order to be marketed, taking into account their characteristics and risk profiles. This approach allows for a differentiated assessment of the potential ethical, health, and environmental implications of different NGT plants. Thus while ensuring market access for those with simpler modifications that could provide significant benefits to the agricultural sector.

A new approach to genetic innovation

NGT plants, both naturally occurring and those obtained through conventional breeding techniques, will undergo a verification process according to the criteria set out in the proposal.

If these plants meet the criteria, they will be considered conventional plants and will be exempt from the restrictions of GMO legislation. Therefore, no risk assessment will be required and they can be labeled as conventional plants.

In contrast, all other NGT plants will be subject to the requirements of current GMO regulations. And they will require a risk assessment and authorization for marketing. Appropriate detection methods and specific monitoring requirements will be adopted for these plants.

In addition, the Commission’s proposal seeks to incentivize plant development toward greater sustainability by ensuring transparency on all NGT plants on the EU market (e.g., through seed labeling) and providing robust monitoring of the economic, environmental, and social impacts of NGT products.

Read also: All about Agri Tech, a possible solution to the pressing challenges of agriculture

New genomic techniques for the genetic manipulation of plants

The proposal mainly covers plants obtained through targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis. As well as food and feed derived from such plants.

New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) include genome editing. Which allows targeted manipulation of the genome by inducing mutations at specific locations in genomes. And cisgenesis, which involves introducing a gene from one variety or genotype of the same species into another variety.

Read also: Smart Farming: all the technologies and benefits for agriculture

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