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New genomic techniques (NGT): understanding benefits and risks – focus on bio-based innovation

There is a need to enable major advances in the life sciences and biotechnology, in new genomic techniques, such as gene/genome editing[[Including, if relevant, epigenomic control mechanisms]]. This aims to ensure they can contribute safely and sustainably addressing the grand societal challenges of our age, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, improved resource efficiency by industry and throughout various sectors of the economy. This covers their applicability for bio-based sectors (e.g. development of improved and more resilient feedstocks, plants and livestock to achieve a more efficient use of resources, longer shelf life of the agricultural products, products or agricultural by-products rendered more reusable). These advances must be aligned with the relevant EU legal framework[[Including the EU Court of Justice judgment in Case C-528/16,]], while aiming to support the climate ambition of zero net emissions by 2050, as well as biodiversity protection and resource efficiency goals. A key aspect should be the combination of safety, environmental sustainability and functionality of the developed products. It needs to recognize the need for a holistic approach at the ecosystem level, for both conventional and alternative production systems. R&I activities should result in solutions to develop safe and more environmentally friendly products, allowing for innovation, transparency and inclusiveness for all actors.

International cooperation is strongly encouraged, to exchange best practice, while contributing to the European competitiveness.

Proposals should:

  1. Advance new genomic techniques in bio-based innovation (purely medical applications such as the therapeutical/clinical applications are excluded), to understand and increase their impact, as related, for instance, to the origin of feedstocks and its other features and its applicable conversion pathways (e.g. via biorefinery processing), storage, logistics, enhanced functionalities and environmental sustainability, safety/non-toxic nature and improved end-of-life behaviour (e.g. reuse/reprocessing), etc. for specific applications.
  2. Develop future scenarios taking into account in different environmental, social and economic drivers, to assess potential critical impacts and bottlenecks with respect to the EU and international governance frameworks. This should take into account the expected demand of primary resources needed to satisfy the growing bio-based economy (especially sustainable biomass), the need to protect and restore biodiversity, as well as the increasing environmental pressures under climate change conditions.
  3. Develop new approaches to design innovative aspects of the production process, screening procedures, molecular tools and digital applications.
  4. Outline the necessary scale-up production processes for novel bio-based innovations in order to reach a critical mass for a given application, to achieve economies of scale, address different market segments and applications, etc.
  5. Ensure transparent and inclusive engagement of all actors, including industry and SMEs, scientific community, regulatory institutions, and broader civil society, to ensure necessary impact.
  6. Where relevant, proposals should seek synergies and capitalise on the results of past and ongoing research projects.

For this topic, it is not mandatory to integrate the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) into research and innovation. This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.