BSPB hails EU study as a boost for innovative plant breeding

The British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) has welcomed today’s publication by the European Commission of a wide-ranging study into the legal status of new precision breeding techniques as an important step towards better regulation of these technologies across Europe.

The study concluded that gene editing techniques can contribute to more sustainable farming and food production systems with plants more resistant to diseases, environmental conditions and climate change effects, food products with higher nutritional qualities such as healthier fatty acid content, and reduced need for agricultural inputs such as pesticides.

In the context of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgement in 2018 that all new breeding techniques such as CRISPR-Cas gene editing should be regulated as GMOs, the study also found that that these techniques require a new legal framework and that the EU’s current GMO legislation, adopted in 2001, is not fit-for-purpose to regulate these advanced breeding methods.

Commenting on the EU study, BSPB chief executive Samantha Brooke said:

“The ECJ ruling in July 2018 put the European Union out of step with regulatory developments elsewhere in the world, where the products of these techniques are not regulated as GMOs. Post-Brexit the UK Government has already moved to consult on legislative steps to set-aside the ECJ judgement, and it is encouraging that the EU study is pointing in a similar direction.

“Advanced gene editing can improve the speed and precision of crop breeding, opening up significant opportunities to keep pace with demands for increased agricultural productivity, resource-use efficiency, more durable pest and disease resistance, improved nutrition and resilience to climate change.”

“Today’s study could signal an important step towards a more harmonised international regulatory approach, and as such it represents a boost to prospects for innovative plant breeding and the benefits it can offer,” she said.

View all news