CRISPR plants, climate change and the precautionary principle

This week’s suggested reading is the paper “EU policy must change to reflect the potential of gene editing for addressing climate change” by Sarah Garland published in Global Food Security. Garland’s article is a welcome addition to the debate and also a suggestion on how to get out with the impasse of the European Court of Justice ruling on genome editing. Here are a few excerpts:

“There should not be dissonance between those advocating for policies that promote climate change action and those supporting gene editing in agriculture. The two go hand in hand. It is time that public discourse and policy reflect this scientific truth”.

“Climate change is the key context necessary to reinterpret the scientific risk evaluated by the Precautionary Principle. Climate change also provides the context to shift the political discourse on gene editing. Climate activism in Europe is gaining considerable traction, exemplified in youth movements like Fridays for Future. Accurately positioning gene editing research and development as an essential part of the science related to climate change and sustainability could shift perspectives of climate-aware citizens, opening the door for political acceptance”. 

“Updated information reflecting scientific safety consensus and the potential of gene editing as a tool to combat climate change combined with growing European political will to address climate change would show cause to reinterpret the Precautionary Principle; a member state court could be convinced that the issue has not been properly resolved and therefore be inclined to refer a relevant case to the ECJ. With different evidence brought before them, it is very possible the ECJ would change their interpretation. Challenging the judicial interpretation of the existing mutagenesis exemption is a feasible route to regulatory change on gene editing in the EU”.

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