The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) believes that no additional EU rules are needed for the use of CRISPR-CAS breeding techniques. In doing so, the EFSA is following an earlier ruling by the European Court of Justice that determined that the current GMO testing criteria for DNA modification in plants are sufficient for CRISPR-CAS.
With this new EFSA advice on CRISP-CAS in plant breeding, published last week, full approval of that technique is a significant step closer. The European Commission had asked for that EFSA advice. Earlier this year, two scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their invention of a pair of scissors to perform the CRISPR technique.
With this form of refinement, defective or harmful parts of the DNA can be removed ('cut away') without adding new (different) DNA. According to proponents, this removes the argument of opponents 'that new nature is being created'.
This technique is already used in chemistry and in the development of medicines, but the EU does not yet allow use in the food chain. Experts now conclude that the current safety tests are sufficient: genome editing does not pose any additional dangers.
Gene editing remains a controversial technology, with serious concerns about human health and the environment, according to opponents. The European Parliament has previously stated that the current EFSA testing criteria are not sufficient for current chemical breeding and crop protection, let alone for new DNA techniques.
“With this new advice, EFSA is simply clouding the waters. Contrary to what they claim, gene editing causes dangers that are new and different from conventional breeding, ”warned Luxembourg MEP Tilly Metz (Greens).
The Dutch professor John van der Oost (Wageningen University & Research) previously showed little understanding for the resistance to Crispr-Cas. "Agriculture needs this technology to continue to feed the growing world population," the scientist recently told LTO magazine Nieuwe Oogst.
'Throughout the discussion, far too little attention has been paid to the enormous benefits of gene editing. If we leave everything to nature, we may have to wait a few million years for the right mutation, and we don't have that time. '
WUR chairman Louise Fresco also advocated relaxation of the EU rules for DNA scissors technology. “The Nobel Prize should encourage the EU to lighten the rules for CRISPR-Cas, so that varieties can quickly enter the market that contribute to the European Green Deal and fight hunger. With this, Europe shows that it is working on a socially responsible, sustainable future ”, Fresco told the EU politicians.