EU invests millions of euros in the development of new genetic engineering, but does not commission any research on its risks – MEPs
The EU has so far not funded any EU research projects that would specifically address the risks and detection methods for new genetic engineering techniques, like gene editing. Today, 31 MEPs from five political groups in the European Parliament called on the EU Commission to change this and to fund such research projects. So far, the EU has mainly funded the development of new genetic engineering, as well as public relations work for its use in agriculture.
Martin Häusling, agricultural policy spokesperson for the Greens in the European Parliament and member of the Environment and Health Committee, initiated the letter. He said:
"It is incomprehensible why the EU invests many millions [of euros] in the development of new genetic engineering, but does not commission any research on its risks for the environment and health. Research on detection methods is also left out. This is negligent and must change immediately.
"The EU member states also allocate only 1.6 percent of their research budgets for new genetic engineering to the areas of risk assessment and detection methods. This research gap must be closed urgently.
"With new genetic engineering methods such as CRISPR/Cas, the genetic material of plants can be modified even more profoundly and quickly than is possible with conventional breeding or the methods of old genetic engineering. This gives rise to new risks, both in terms of the intended characteristics and unintended consequences of genetic manipulation. Only with appropriate research on possible risks are the facts on the table and only then can we take appropriate precautions in dealing with the new techniques.
"Research on detection methods for new genetic engineering is also lacklustre. This is despite the fact that various EU member states, including Austria, France and Italy, have explicitly spoken out in favour of such research at the EU level. So far, the national authorities have no instruments at hand with which they can identify products of new genetic engineering that are already on the market today and are registered in the corresponding EU database.
"With our letter, we call on the responsible research commissioner to adapt her research priorities in the field of genetic engineering to the requirements of the precautionary principle. It is simply inadequate for the Commission to spend 271 million euros on research on new genetic engineering in the field of plants over a period of four years, while exclusively funding projects that advance the methods themselves and their application.
"At the same time, the Commission is making it clear that it would like to significantly relax the genetic engineering laws for the new methods. In view of the lack of risk and proof research, this would mean negligently turning a blind eye. We therefore urge the EU Commission to finally also put out to tender research programmes on risks and detection methods."
Letter from the MEPs to the Commission:
Source: Martin Häusling MEP
Translation by Deepl; editing by GMWatch