A new brand of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), derived from so-called gene editing techniques, must comply with risk assessment, traceability and labelling requirements under EU GMO law, the European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday.


 

The Court said that any organism obtained with new genetic engineering techniques falls within the scope of GMO law. It argued that the risks linked to the use of these techniques are comparable to those associated with conventional genetic engineering.

The ruling confirms warnings by scientists who have argued that gene editing can cause unintended DNA damage with unknown consequences. A recent article in Nature showed that CRISPR/Cas can cause much greater genetic deletions and more complex genomic rearrangements than experts thought.

Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “The Court makes it crystal clear that plants and animals derived from gene editing are subject to the same safety and labelling requirements as other GM organisms. These requirements exist to prevent harm and inform consumers about the food they eat. Releasing these new GMOs into the environment without proper safety measures is illegal and irresponsible, particularly given that gene editing can lead to unintended side effects. The European Commission and European governments must now ensure that all new GMOs are fully tested and labelled, and that any field trials are brought under GMO rules.”

Greenpeace calls on the European Commission to ensure that the only gene edited plant that is currently grown in North America, a herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape, cannot be imported or grown in the EU unless it complies with EU GMO requirements [1]. The Commission and European governments must also ensure that GMO law is applied to any GM plants currently in the pipeline [2] and to any field trials [3].

Recent research shows that DowDupont and Bayer/Monsanto are behind the largest number of international patent applications for gene editing techniques and plants.

Notes:

[1] This herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape, developed by US company Cibus is grown in some parts of the US and Canada. It was developed using a gene editing technique called oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis (ODM). Cibus lobbied several EU countries to allow field trials outside of GMO regulations.

[2] The plants in the pipeline include a soybean with a changed composition of fatty acids, developed by Calyxt, and a so-called ‘waxy’ maize, with enhanced starch contents, developed by DowDupont.

[3] Sweden, Finland, Belgium and the UK had pre-empted the European Court of Justice ruling by  greenlighting field trials of gene-edited plants outside the scope of EU GMO law. These field trials are now illegal.

Contacts:

Franziska Achterberg – Greenpeace EU food policy director: +32 (0)498 36 24 03, franziska.achterberg@greenpeace.org

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, pressdesk.eu@greenpeace.org

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs: www.twitter.com/GreenpeaceEU

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.