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05.09.2018

Bioeconomy Council calls for new GMO laws

Following the EU's decision to classify crops created by genome editing technologies as GMOs, the German Bioeconomy Council urges politicians to modernize genetic engineering laws.

Das Genome Editing ist ein vielversprechendes Werkzeug für Pflanzenzüchter. Aber die entstehenden Pflanzen sind nicht gentechnisch verändert, sagen Forscher.
Genome editing is a promising tool for plant breeding
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On July 25, the European Court of Justice ruled that plants created using novel genome editing methods are to be classified as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They are therefore subject to the strict EU guidelines for GMOs. Environmentalists applauded the decision, while researchers expressed disappointment and the industry warned that the court ruling would impede potential benefits of genome editing for the European market.

Legislation should mirror diversity of potential applications

Now, the German Bioeconomy Council has presented a differentiated assessment of the genome editing technologies in question. The independent advisory body to the federal government is calling for legislation that is better suited to the diversity of applications of new technologies. "In its current form, the EU genetic engineering legislation cannot do justice to the opportunities and challenges of technologies," sums up Christine Lang, co-chair of the Bioeconomy Council. "We need an amendment adapted to progress. What is important is regulation that distinguishes between mutations and gene transfers and provides for risk-oriented procedures for approval and release."

Legl amendment to include registry and monitoring of good practice

The council is convinced that genome editing will trigger significant innovations for the bioeconomy. Lang observes a breakthrough of technologies in science and companies: "New drugs, climate-adapted and resistant crops, health-promoting foods and environmentally friendly production processes are already being developed worldwide with the help of CRISPR and Co." However, the council statement recognizes the need for regulation and raises concerns regarding too rapid or uncontrolled expansion.

In addition to the legal amendment, the Council recommended a number of concrete accompanying measures, such as registry and monitoring of good practice in commercial and academic use of genome editing technologies and a strengthening of international cooperation. The Council does not expect mandatory product labelling to be expedient, but is pushing for a better infrastructure for voluntary certification.

Read the full statement of the German Bioeconomy council (in German)

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