European farmers react strongly to EU gene-editing ruling

European farmers’ group Copa-Cogeca has expressed regret at the decision yesterday to re-categorise gene-edited crops, warning of potential consequences for EU agriculture.

It was announced in Brussels yesterday (Wednesday, July 25) that gene-edited crops should be regulated in the same way as conventionally genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Also Read: EU rules that gene-editing falls under the GMO category

The Brussels-based farmers’ representative group warned that the ruling made by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) risks putting European agriculture at a disadvantage to the rest of the world.

In a statement, Copa-Cogeca’s secretary general Pekka Pesonen said: “This decision risks that European agriculture remains isolated from the benefits of innovative developments vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

EU legislation should be fit for purpose, encouraging innovation in plant breeding and helping farmers to continue to provide safe and traceable food whilst protecting resources.”

The association’s Twitter account followed this up commenting: “We regret ECJ’s interpretation in the Case C-528/16 regarding organisms obtained by certain mutagenesis techniques.

“EU farmers are facing many challenges like extreme weather conditions, price volatility etc, therefore they need the availability of improved breeds.

The ruling

The ECJ’s ruling yesterday means that GMO legislation that came into effect in 2001 – which regulates the planting and sale of EU crops – will now include mutagenesis techniques, that were developed after 2001 and are not exempt from the law. Gene-editing is one of these techniques.

CRISPR is a common form of gene-editing. The technique involves changes to DNA. It does not involve the insertion of genes from other species.

CRISPR food crops will now have to go through the same regulations and hurdles as traditional GMOs.

The court did state that exemptions may be obtained for some techniques which have been used conventionally and which have a long and safe record.

In a follow-up tweet, Copa-Cogeca referenced this, stating: “We call upon governments of the member states to quickly take a decision on the legal status of certain mutagenesis techniques.

“Plant breeders should be able to consider these techniques in their breeding programs, reducing by some 10 years the time to market.”