Sunday 6 December 2020
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Europe wants to quickly allow genetic modification for corona vaccine

The European Commission is trying to relax the current strict rules against gene techniques. The European Commissioners want to temporarily lift the European ban on genetic engineering for medical use, in order to accelerate the development of an anti-corona vaccine.

The pharmaceutical company with which the Netherlands concluded an agreement two weeks ago, also uses genetic engineering. Tinkering with the DNA of organisms is controversial because it is regarded as 'messing about with nature', both from a religious and moral-ethical and biological-ecological viewpoint.

However, a distinction is often made between genetic modifications in humans, in animals and in nature. The European Union is trying to keep this technology at bay, but in some other countries it is already being used in some branches of agriculture and livestock. The EU prohibits the import of such products.

Commissioner Kyriakides calls on the European Parliament and the ministers of the EU countries to approve the proposal for relaxation as soon as possible. The EP will have to vote on the proposal within a few weeks. The relaxations are expected to take effect this summer.

According to the European Commission, it is important that a vaccine for the coronavirus is released as soon as possible, but the strict rules on genetic engineering get in the way. Current regulations on genetic modification are delaying the development of a corona vaccine too much and need to be broadened, according to the European Commission.

Opinions on genetic engineering are strongly divided within the EP. For example, there are mainly ethical questions about its safety. For this reason, the European Commission also speaks only of temporary relaxation. Debates about food safety, animal welfare and public health have repeatedly raised the rejection of gene modification, but are still rejected by a majority.

The EU already uses genetic modification, or tinkering with DNA, for various vaccines and medicines. However, strict rules apply to the use of this technique for medicines. For example, it is necessary to examine the risks to the environment. The European Commission proposes that this environmental risk analysis be 'temporarily' canceled, and that priority be given to 'health'

The European Parliament will meet next week from 8 to 10 July, to discuss the matter. Dutch MEP Peter Van Dalen (CU) is opposed to relaxation, but expects a majority in favor of easing.

The Dutch committee that advises the cabinet on genetic modification (COGEM) is not enthusiastic about the European Commission's proposal. The committee calls putting aside the current strict rules "irresponsible" and "disproportionate," said a spokesman in the Reformatorisch Dagblad. Vaccines based on this technique entail risks for third parties and the environment, says COGEM.

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