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Supporting legal reforms that secure global food supply

Which is the best option for plant breeding using new genomic techniques in the EU? New research sheds light on the matter.

Food and Natural Resources icon Food and Natural Resources

In July 2023, the European Commission put forward a new regulation on plants produced by certain new genomic techniques. While discussions on the proposal are in progress, scientists supported by the EU-funded GeneBEcon project have compiled information to help political decision-makers form a clearer picture on the available options. The research findings were published in the journal ‘Nature Plants’ and will be included in the current debate on a draft law by the Commission. The scientists studied the planned legal reforms while taking into account the Commission’s aim to promote greater sustainability. They concluded that the best option would be to focus on plant traits with sustainability benefits. This is “the best way to contribute to climate protection and the transition to climate neutrality and to immediately integrate sustainability into all food-related policy areas,” states study lead author Prof. Dr Kai Purnhagen of GeneBEcon project partner University of Bayreuth, Germany, in a news item posted on ‘’.

Six options on the table

To aid decision-making in the legislative process, the research team outlined six regulatory options in the study. “New genomic techniques offer great potential, but the possible risks should be managed,” observes Prof. Dr Purnhagen, adding: “How exactly this should be done is still unclear. We have therefore outlined various options that should now enrich the discussion on the planned law.” The six outlined options are modelled on regulations in Argentina, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. However, regulations of other countries and regulatory areas in the EU have also been used as a guide. “We are proposing various regulatory options to regulate the new breeding technologies in such a way that the EU remains present on the global market and in research and the risks remain manageable,” explains the lead author. While their proposals have used different countries’ regulations as models and guides, Prof. Dr Purnhagen emphasises that they “are primarily based on scientific findings.” He elucidates further: “The regulatory options can be used to develop a law that secures the future food supply worldwide and ensures that the EU is not left behind by the global market in terms of food supply.” The 3-year GeneBEcon (Capturing the potential of Gene editing for a sustainable BioEconomy) project was launched in 2022. Coordinated by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, it is focusing on research and innovation using new genomic techniques that will help farmers and bio-based industries use climate-friendly and less polluting solutions. GeneBEcon aims to use its results to help scientists, policymakers, plant breeders, farmers, industry and consumers make informed decisions on the safe and responsible use of new genomic technique-derived products. For more information, please see: GeneBEcon project website


GeneBEcon, food, food supply, climate, genomic technique, sustainability, plant, regulation

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