For a science-based regulation of plants from new genetic techniques
Technological progress makes genetic engineering a rapidly developing field. In its proposal of July 2023, the European Commission (EC) aims to deregulate a subset of new genetic techniques (NGT). This proposal would exempt certain NGT plants from the current EU regulatory framework for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) based on a considered equivalence with conventionally bred plants. Similar to the French ANSES, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) argues in its new policy brief that this approach of considered equivalence lacks a valid scientific basis and violates the precautionary principle, since plausible risks cannot be excluded.
In its policy brief the BfN uses concrete examples to show that it is impossible to exclude potential risks of NGT plants just from the size and number of changes of the DNA sequence. Even small changes by genetic engineering can have a high-risk potential for the environment and health. NGT plants can have potential risks comparable to other genetic engineering techniques and can change plants in ways that go beyond conventional breeding. Therefore, the precautionary principle enshrined in primary law of the EU must remain central in the regulation on plants obtained by certain new genetic techniques (NGT). The current legislative proposal does not fulfil this requirement.