The European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors has published a statement on gene editing and the GMO directive, following the controversial judgment released last July by the EU Court of Justice. They state that new scientific knowledge and recent technical developments made Directive 2001/18 “no longer fit for purpose.” Therefore “there is a need to improve EU GMO legislation to be clear, evidence-based, implementable, proportionate and flexible.” The document was welcomed by Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. Let’s hope actions will follow, and laws keep up with labs.
A proposal from the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment points the way out of the GM regulatory impasse for most CRISPR crops in Europe. Rather than trying to clarify ambiguous definitions, the EU could simply amend Annex B1, that is the list of technologies that are excluded from regulation by the directive on GMOs (2001/18/EC). Continue reading
“Agricultural research, or a new bioweapon system?”. This is the question asked by Guy Reeves et al. in a policy forum published in Science today. The evolutionary geneticist from the Max Planck Institute and his German and French coauthors doubt that the Insect Allies program funded by Darpa in the US will realize significant agricultural benefits, e.g. in relation to drought, frost, flooding, herbicide, salinity, or disease. They fear, indeed, that it will be “widely perceived as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their delivery, which – if true – would constitute a breach of the Biological Weapons Convention.” Continue reading
When the European Court of Justice ruled that CRISPR products must obey the same cumbersome rules as GMOs, European ag scientists were shocked. After complaining, it’s time to advance new proposals. A German council advising the Federal Government has just released its recommendations, calling for new EU legislation. According to the 17 members panel, named Bioökonomierat, we should adopt a differentiated approach to the genome-editing technology and its applications, ranging from single letter mutations to complex genome modifications. For example, graduated licensing and approval procedures for different classes of risk. Please see the main points below. Continue reading
It won’t be a candy bar like the one in the picture, but it will be the first CRISPR snack ever eaten in Italy and among the first in the world. A taste of rice edited in Milan, according to rumors. The initiative, organized by The Luca Coscioni Association for freedom of scientific research, will take place on September 18 at 10 am, in front of the Italian Parliament. The first CRISPR meal ever served was a tête-à-tête between a scientist and a journalist in Sweden in September 2016. A month later Calyxt hosted a dinner made with food edited with a different biotech tool in a famous restaurant in Manhattan. The Italian snack is different, however, because of its public nature and political aim. It’s a call to politicians, journalists and scientists to engage in the regulatory debate about genome editing after the EU Court of Justice ruled that edited plants are GMOs. GM field trials are banned in Italy and CRISPR represents a much-needed second chance for geneticists to get out of the impasse.
A shortlist of articles capturing ag scientists’ dismay at the recent EU verdict affecting the future of CRISPR crops:
Science Media Centre, Expert reaction to Court of Justice of the European Union ruling that GMO rules should cover plant genome editing techniques
Matt Ridley, EU’s anti-GMO crusade is unscientific and harmful
Mark Lynas, Scientific community defeated by green groups in European court ruling on gene edited crops
Carl Zimmer, What is a genetically modified crop? A European ruling sows confusion
The Observer view on Europe’s ban on gene-editing crops
Wired, European ruling could slow Africa’s push for CRISPR crops