Tuesday, October 28, 2014

British report slams EU GMO bans

Europe is being too cautious in its regulation of genetically-modified crop varieties, says a new report from scientists based in the United Kingdom.

The report from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council says many of the regulations should be cancelled to enable scientists to bring improved varieties to market.

The council allocates government funding for biotech research.

It underlined the value of "genome editing" technology that allows precise and targeted genetic changes without having to switch DNA between species.

Such advances blurred the line between genetic modification (GM) and non-GM breeding techniques, it says.

This made fair assessments of GM applications difficult under the existing regulatory framework, which focused on the methods used to produce a new crop variety rather than a plant's actual characteristics.

The EU approach to GM was in contrast to the process for approving new medicines, which weighed up benefit and risk by looking at the active molecules in a drug, not the way they were produced.

The statement, from a panel of experts appointed by the council says " novel genetic techniques have been developed in recent years and are advancing rapidly. They include techniques commonly referred to as 'genome editing' that allow targeted changes to be made to genomes, such as adding, removing or replacing DNA at specified locations.

"The new techniques offer the possibility of making genetic changes more precisely than previously possible by targeting them to specific sites in the genome.

"In some cases it will be impossible to tell what method was used to produce a new crop variety, because exactly the same DNA changes could be introduced using a variety of conventional breeding or newer techniques.

The boundaries between established genetic modification (GM) and non-GM breeding are blurred, it says.
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"This raises questions about how new crop varieties should be regulated. A regulatory system based on the characteristics of a novel crop, by whatever method it has been produced, would provide more effective and robust regulation than current EU processes, which consider new crop varieties differently depending on the method used to generate them," the report says.

BBSRC chief executive Professor Jackie Hunter said “if we want the UK and the EU to continue to be world-leading in this area, we must ensure there is appropriate regulation in this changing landscape."