Concern as EU strays on gene editing


The Australian agriculture sector is concerned by the European Union (EU) Court of Justice ruling that plants resulting from some of the latest plant breeding innovations, including gene editing techniques such as CRISPR, are considered genetic modification, on the basis that it is at odds with scientific evidence and has significant negative implications for plant breeding and farming.

It is hoped the outcome will be the trigger for the EU to clarify the regulation of plant breeding innovations based on scientific evidence and facts, as the decision will be a serious set-back for European agriculture.

Concern is rife in the agriculture sector that the decision will cause regulatory uncertainty and put a handbrake on crucial global research on gene-edited crops, which were in track to provide improvements in food crop nutrition, crop ability to cope with changing climate conditions and increased farming yields.

It appears that the ruling is based almost entirely on the breeding process and the technology involved rather than the final outcome of the process and therefore is at odds with the recently-stated opinion of the EU Advocate General and with decisions made elsewhere around the world, including Australia, US, South America and Israel.

These new plant breeding innovations like genome editing are easier and faster and can help to more efficiently develop plant varieties that have a reduced need for inputs.

The Australian Government is urged to 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.