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European Scientists Unite to Safeguard Gene-Editing for Crops

October 25, 2018
Leading researchers representing more than 85 European plant and life sciences research centres and institutes have endorsed a position paper that urgently calls upon European policy makers to safeguard gene-editing technologies in plant science and agriculture.

The scientists are deeply concerned about a recent European Court of Justice ruling concerning modern genome editing techniques that could lead to a de facto ban of innovative crop breeding.

The position paper argues the European farmers may be deprived of a new generation of more climate resilient and nutritious crop varieties that are urgently needed to respond to current ecological and societal challenges.

The joint document follows an outpouring of concerned statements of European research institutes over the recent months following the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruling under which genome edited organisms must comply with strict EU Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) legislation.

The position paper is evidence of a solid consensus among the academic life science research community in Europe on the negative consequences of the ruling.

“The support for this initiative from plant scientists all over Europe has been overwhelming,” said Dirk Inzé, scientific director at VIB-University of Gent Centre for Plant Systems Biology and one of the initiators of the position paper.
“It clearly illustrates the current dichotomy in Europe: as European leaders in the field of plant sciences we are committed to bringing innovative and sustainable solutions to agriculture, but we are hindered by an outdated regulatory framework that is not in line with recent scientific evidence. With this mission statement we hope to promote evidence-informed policymaking in the EU, which is of crucial importance to us all.”

- Dirk Inzé, scientific director at VIB-University of Gent Centre for Plant Systems Biology

The implications of a very restrictive regulation of innovative plant breeding methods are far-reaching, say the signatories, arguing that European agricultural innovation based on precision breeding will come to a halt because of the high threshold that this EU legislation presents.

To safeguard innovation in agriculture in Europe, the signatories of the position paper ask for a new regulatory framework that evaluates new crop varieties based on science.

Readers can view the position paper and add your name to the list of signatories here. ​