Thursday, July 26, 2018

European court chllls gene editing technology

Europe’s top court has ruled that new crop varieties developed by gene editing fall under the same regulatory regime as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

It's another stupid block on progress.

Gene editing involves only the genes already resident in a species; GMO technology involves transferring a gene or genes from one species to another.

 “Organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO Directive,” the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said in a statement.

“The Court of Justice takes the view, first of all, that organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs within the meaning of the GMO Directive, in so far as the techniques and methods of mutagenesis alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally,” it added.

The ruling by the ECJ goes against the opinion of the court’s advocate general, who argued in January that the new techniques should be allowed.

Gene editing extends beyond crops to human medicine and livestock. For example, Semex is involved in a partnership to develop cattle that genetically will not grow horns and the Canadian swine industry has a project to develop boars that will not pass into puberty so there will be no “boar taint” in meat from uncastrated males. The boar gene that is muted can be reversed so farmers can get offspring.

German chemical industry association VCI, which represents companies such as Bayer, BASF and Merck, said the court’s ruling was “backward looking and hostile to progress.”

European biotech association EuropaBio said the ruling failed to provide regulatory clarity.

“Public confidence and science-based decision-making are both important for ensuring that genome editing can deliver needed solutions,” EuropaBio secretary general John Brennan said.
Environmentalists, anti-GMO groups and farmers concerned about the potential environmental and health impacts of all genetically engineered products said allowing gene editing would usher in a new era of “GMO 2.0” via the backdoor.

“We welcome this landmark ruling which defeats the biotech industry’s latest attempt to push unwanted genetically-modified products onto our fields and plates,” Mute Schimpf, a campaigner for environmental group Friends of the Earth said in a statement.