THE European Union (EU) Court of Justice has ruled that crops resulting from gene editing techniques such as CRISPR should be subject to the same laws as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The decision follows a decade of debate in Europe over what is – or isn’t – GM food.
It rules against the biotech industry which had argued that gene editing was no different to natural mutations or the techniques used in traditional plant breeding processes.
Scientists had hoped gene editing would be exempt from European laws that limit the planting and sale of GM crops.
CropLife Australia chief executive officer, Matthew Cossey, said the European ruling had no basis in scientific evidence and had significant negative implications for plant breeding and farming.
“The decision by the EU Court of Justice highlights the ridiculousness of EU regulations on plant breeding and should be the trigger for the EU to finally clarify the regulation of plant breeding innovations based on scientific evidence and facts, not extreme anti-science agendas. As it stands, this decision will send European agriculture back into the dark ages,” he said.
“This ruling is a clear signal to the Australian Government to ensure that Australia’s regulations of these plant breeding innovations are based on evidence and science, not on the bizarre, luddite opinions of European activist organisations.
“This decision provides nothing but regulatory uncertainty and places a handbrake on crucial global research on gene-edited crops that was working towards improvements in food crop nutrition, crop ability to cope with changing climate conditions and increased farming yields.”
Mr Cossey said plant breeding innovations like genome editing were easier and faster and could help to more efficiently develop plant varieties that had a reduced need for inputs.
He said the latest innovations could also dramatically improve the efficiency of breeding programs and help achieve results in a much more targeted manner.
“Now, more than ever, it is critical that the Australian Government adopt pro-innovation policies so that Australian farmers have access to the latest tools and technologies to remain internationally competitive and sustainably feed a growing population.”