26 May 2022

European Commission launches public consultation on genetically engineered plants

The European Commission has opened a public consultation on legislation relating to plants produced by certain genomic techniques. The consultation is open for submissions until midnight (CET) on the 22 July 2022.

The public consultation is aimed at gathering views and evidence from public authorities, citizens, and stakeholders (both inside and outside of the EU) relating to:

  • the functioning of current genetically modified organisms (GMO) legislation; and
  • how best to regulate plants obtained by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis.

The consultation is particularly aimed at those in the fields of agriculture, food and feed, plants, the environment, sustainability, biotechnology in general and the application of targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis in plants, including their food and feed products.

In 2018 the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled that the legal regulations for GMOs applied to all organisms which have been altered using new genome editing methods. At the time of the ruling, many innovators in this space questioned the scientific basis for CJEU’s ruling and warned that this would make the research and development of improved crops to address urgent concerns such as climate change and sustainable agriculture more difficult.

Pleasingly, the European Commission now appears willing to reopen consideration on the important issue of new genomic techniques and adapt the current GMO legislation to the scientific and technological progress of GMO. The public consultation is part of a European Commission initiative to propose a legal framework for plants obtained by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis and for food and feed products produced from said plants. The initiative aims to provide an appropriate regulatory oversight for said plants and products which ensures a high level of protection of human and animal health and the environment, while also enabling innovation, particularly in the field of agri-food. An important consideration of the initiative is to enable these genomic techniques to contribute to the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Green Deal.

Following completion of the public consultation, the Commission will conduct an impact assessment. Publication of the impact assessment and of a potential legal proposal is expected in the second quarter of 2023.