Top EU court rules new breeding tech counts as GMOs | News | DW | 25.07.2018
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Top EU court rules new breeding tech counts as GMOs

The suit was brought by small-scale French farmers against some biotechnology exemptions from regulations. So-called "molecular scissors" are just as dangerous as other genetic engineering, the ECJ said.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Wednesday that a new set of genetic engineering techniques pioneered by biotechnology firms is subject to bloc regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The breeding techniques had been given an exemption for organisms created by mutagenesis, a process in which some gene sequences are removed, but no foreign ones are introduced. These exemptions were challenged by small-scale French farmers, and the suit went all the way to Europe's top court.

The ruling states:

  • New mutagenesis techniques such as "molecular scissors" carry the same risks to humans, animals, and the environment as traditional genetic engineering
  • Food produced by these cutting-edge technologies must be subjected to the same risk assessments, tracing and labeling systems required of traditional GMOs.
  • Only mutagenesis tools that "have conventionally been used in number of applications and have a long safety record" will be able to receive exemptions in the future.

Why the techniques are controversial: Despite receiving exemptions, techniques like the "molecular scissors" have the same effect on crops as inserting foreign genes. They can produce new varieties of GM foods at a rate "out of all proportion" to older mutagenesis methods.

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Reaction from food producers: Large farms and food production companies have argued that the new mutagenesis tools are necessary to keep up with global competition and demand. 

Public reaction: Consumer advocates hailed the ruling, as European customers are extremely wary of GM food and are worried about it appearing on grocery store shelves without labels. Environmentalists also welcomed the move. Mute Schimpf of the group Friends of the Earth said that the ECJ decision "defeats the biotech industry's latest attempt to push unwanted genetically-modified products onto our fields and plates." 

es/rt (AP, dpa)

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