Brussels is rethinking the way it regulates new genomic techniques (NGTs), a new generation of biotechnology, to create more climate-resistant and productive crops. The Commission concluded in a study released last year that they should be regulated differently than classic genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It also recognized that the biggest potential was in plants obtained with targeted modification techniques such as cisgenesis and mutagenesis.
The upcoming revision has already sparked a lively debate between stakeholders. The farmers’ association and the biotechnology industry are calling for a new EU framework for genome edited crops which should be proportionate to the risk profile of the products developed. They argue it will help to feed a growing world population amid climate change by allowing precisely tailored crop varieties. Environmental and organic farming groups, on the other hand, are calling for robust mechanisms to detect and assess potential risks — especially those resulting from unintended genetic changes. Moreover, they worry NGTs will bring ethical risks and increase corporate control over global food systems at a time where they face increasing pressures from climate disruption, conflict and growing inequality.
Questions to be addressed include:
- What is the potential of NGTs to meet Europe’s climate neutrality goal? How can NGTs be used responsibly to deliver on sustainability and benefit society?
- Can NGTs further contribute to develop agroecology?
- How can these technologies contribute to food security ?
- How should these seeds be employed by conventional farmers in order to limit impacts on small-scale or organic farmers?
- How can policymakers and the industry ensure that these new and likely patented technologies remain accessible for farmers and don’t hurt farmers’ bottom-lines?
- What is the evidence showing that gene-edited seeds will help address the climate crisis and help limit agriculture’s impact on the environment? How are these new NGTs different from GMOs, which also came with the same promises?
As the Commission is currently revamping NGTs rules to green up farming, POLITICO Live convenes EU and national policymakers, tech and farmers for a frank discussion on how innovation like NGTs can improve farmers’ life while meeting the EU Green Deal objectives.
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