Precautionary principle must be upheld – German Farmers' Association and GMO-Free seed group
A year ago, on 25 July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a ruling on new methods of genetic engineering (such as CRISPR/Cas) that can be applied in plant breeding (Case C-528/16). The judges clarified that plants produced using new genetic engineering techniques should be regulated under existing EU genetic engineering legislation. This means that these genetically engineered plants will also have to undergo an authorisation procedure with risk assessment and will be subject to a labelling obligation. Distributors must submit methods for detection and traceability, and monitoring must be guaranteed. Research and development in the field of new genetic engineering are still possible under certain biosafety conditions.
"The GMO-free agriculture and food industry as well as seed breeders welcome the ECJ ruling, as it creates legal certainty for GMO-free producers and strengthens the precautionary principle," said Annemarie Volling, genetic engineering expert at the German Farmers' Association (Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft, AbL). "Genetic engineering law is applicable and the Federal Government must now make a clear commitment to its implementation in line with the precautionary principle. The non-regulation of the new genetic engineering plants demanded by the genetic engineering industry, among others, or a softening of the regulations would lead to considerable legal uncertainty for all parties involved. Freedom of choice and precaution - important achievements in the EU - would be torpedoed. GMO-free seed breeding and food production would no longer be possible. But that is a great competitive advantage for European farmers and for GMO-free plant breeding".
"The new genetic engineering plants are being developed in the context and logic of industrialised agriculture," said Stefanie Hundsdorfer of the Interest Group for GMO-Free Seeds (IG Saatgut). "However, in order to meet the future challenges in agriculture, we need a completely different, diverse breeding system that is oriented towards common goods such as the conservation of natural resources. Alternatives to industrial seed production – which is aimed at maximizing profits – can only contribute to the urgently needed turnaround in nutrition in the future with consistent regulation of new genetically engineered plants."
"The GMO-free food industry and seed breeding have become an important European quality standard whose market shares are constantly growing," added Eva Gelinsky of IG Saatgut. "The fact that different breeding strategies can be pursued in Europe, especially in the field of conventional breeding without genetic engineering, is a competitive advantage that should not be given up lightly."
According to EU law, companies are obliged to provide detection methods for their genetic engineering constructs if they apply for approval for the European market. "Companies are obliged to provide detection methods," Gelinsky said. "It is also high time for publicly funded research programmes to develop standard detection methods. The manufacturers of the genetically engineered plants must provide the necessary plant material for this."
Source: IG Saatgut