The genetic engineering debate is mutating

By Christian BlockMike ZenariLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

In the EU, genome-edited plants fall under strict genetic engineering legislation. According to plans of the EU Commission, this is to change in the future. Environmental organisations such as Greenpeace, however, demand that the labelling and precautionary obligation be maintained.

Raymond Aendekerk has not yet taken the posters and protest banners out of storage when he welcomes us to the offices of Greenpeace Luxembourg in Esch/Alzette. It is issues like the climate crisis, a sustainable investment policy of the pension fund or the fight against nuclear power that the environmental protection organisation is more concerned with at this point.

But what is not, can still become. For some time now, the EU Commission has been preparing the ground for an amendment of the genetic engineering legislation. A new EU legal framework for plants produced with the help of new genetic engineering methods such as the gene scissors Crispr/Cas9 (see infobox) is in the offing – and with it the debate on a topic that has been on the agenda only sporadically in recent years.

In a study requested by the EU Council and published at the end of April, the Commission came to the conclusion that plants created by so-called new genomic techniques could potentially be more resistant to diseases and pests, require fewer pesticides or be better able to cope with climatic changes. Furthermore, the new techniques could help to achieve the goals of the European Green Deal and the Farm-to-Fork strategy, insofar as these promise a lower impact of agriculture on the environment and climate on the one hand and resilient food production on the other. A legislative proposal from the EU Commission is expected by mid-2023.

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