A new report suggests that EU legislation on organisms created by genome editing is “not fit for purpose”. The review was carried out by the European Commission in response to growing concern that current policies are lagging behind the latest scientific developments.

In 2018 the European Court of Justice ruled that all genome-edited organisms are to be treated equally. However, the judgment was based on technical definitions from 2001, and many experts suggest that it does not distinguish between organisms that have undergone minor genetic changes, such as would be created by natural breeding programs, and transgenic organisms whose genomes contain DNA introduced by other species.

They argue that targeted changes in the genome of crops using precise new techniques like Crispr to improve their disease and drought resilience could help meet Europe’s sustainability goals. But Europe’s strict rules essentially prohibit such technologies.

The new report from the European Commission supports these claims and concludes that the current legislation “needs to be adapted to scientific and technological progress”. The study took into account input from stakeholders in the biotechnology sector, the European Food Safety Authority and independent expert advisers from the Science and Ethics Commission. The report calls for follow-up work, including a public consultation, to determine what policy changes are needed and how new legislation can be future-proofed.

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