Author Archive

European Food Forum event on New Genomic Techniques 
European Parliament, Brussels (BE), 5th of July 2023 

Genome editing is heavily regulated because of the risk of unknown and unwanted effects. However, new genomic techniques allow for more precise editing, minimising the risk of undesired alterations. Nevertheless, with that possibility comes considerable responsibility: potential for unknown impacts still exists and, whilst existing strict restrictions no longer fit, a framework to harness the benefits of new genomic techniques is still needed.

New genomic techniques offer many benefits including crops with increased yield, improved nutritional content, greater resilience to drought, and reduced need for pesticides, for example. Together, these can help address food security and public health concerns, supporting the European economy, and protect pollinators and biodiversity. However, co-existence of these crops with traditional and organically-farmed crops must be considered, alongside intellectual property (e.g., patents) and impacts on agricultural tradition and choice. Detection of a genetic modification is relatively easy, but determination of the method used is in many cases not possible, which creates traceability and authenticity issues that are important to protect reputation and accountability.

The proposed framework will divide new genomic techniques adapted plants into those without foreign material, granting them status equal to conventional crops, and those containing foreign materials, which can apply for authorization at EU level. Ultimately, joint action and inclusion of citizens, academia, and the private sector will be needed to achieve inclusive and equitable solutions for products developed using new genomic technique.