Legislation governing genetically modified and genome-edited crops in Europe: the need for change

Nigel G Halford
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 2018 June 27
The European Commission's assessment and approval process for genetically modified (GM) crops has resulted in only two GM crop varieties being licensed for cultivation in the European Union, one of which has been withdrawn. Unable to define GM crops satisfactorily, the European Commission has fallen back on a definition based on process. The shortcomings of this approach are all too clear as the Commission grapples with the advent of genome editing. This has led to a long and damaging delay in the Commission issuing an opinion on how genome-edited crops should be regulated. At the same time, national bans imposed by member states on GM crops without any evidence of safety concerns have been legalized. The Commission also faces the prospect of assessing an increasing number of GM and genome-edited crops with deliberately altered composition. In this article, the operation of regulations covering GM crops in the European Union and the effect they have had on the development of plant biotechnology are reviewed, while the issues raised by new technologies are discussed. It is argued that there is an urgent need for the European Union to shift its position on plant biotechnology if agriculture is to meet the challenges of coming decades. © 2018 The Author. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society of Chemical Industry.

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