Plants produced by new genomic techniques

EESC opinion: Plants produced by new genomic techniques

Key points

The EESC:

  • welcomes the Commission's intention to lay the groundwork for accelerating plant breeding processes and providing EU farmers with resilient plant varieties to meet the ever-growing multifactorial challenges while contributing to food security and to the European Green Deal's targets and becoming more competitive on the global stage;
  • welcomes the principle of an environmental and health risk assessment tailored to the type of modification applied, but calls the European Commission to specifically consider implementing an ex post systemic surveillance and labelling of NGTs category 1 till the consumer. This labelling could rely on administrative traceability and include information on the added value of the variety
  • calls on the Commission to ensure that the successful models of organic farming and the GM-free sector can continue to flourish. Harmonised coexistence measures need to be defined at EU level to avoid different rules and distortion of competition between Member States. If such models decide to call for a ban, it would make more sense to include this in the organic legislation than in the NGT rules (as in the case of GMOs);
  • highlights the potential risk of a large number of patents linked to the use of NGTs, which could create dependencies for farmers and seed SMEs, and calls for a clarification of the intellectual property rules in relation to living organisms before this legislation enters into force;
  • also proposes the creation, in a public and decentralised way, of a European traditional seed bank which would collect seeds from endemic plants in order to preserve them and make them available if needed in the future. The EC should assess the possibilities for collaboration with the Global Seed Vault in Norway and build on national collections, as well as the European collection of genetic resources;
  • believes that it is necessary to make it impossible for non-NGT professionals to purchase on the internet and use kits for genetically modifying living beings using techniques such as CRISPR-Cas[1] without oversight;

[1]            Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.