MEPs to discuss ECJ ruling on plant breeding: AGRI and ENVI committees to hold joint meeting

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages
© GettyImages
MEPs are to discuss the July 2018 ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on new plant breeding techniques (NBPTs) on Monday next.

The European Parliament’s Agriculture (AGRI) and Environment, Pubic Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committees are holding a joint meeting on the topic on January 7 2019; members will exchange views on the controversial ECJ judgement​.

In July 2018, the ECJ ruled that organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO legislation. 

There are claims that these organisms should thus be subject to authorization procedures, which would mean only big companies could continue investing in these techniques; there are also claims the Court's judgement does not provide the necessary regulatory clarity needed by EU researchers, innovators and academics.

Agri-food chain stakeholders railed against the ECJ finding, calling it a missed opportunity for agricultural innovation in the EU but activists like GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth hailed the ruling as a victory for the environment and consumers.

Scientists concerned

Scientists representing more than 85 European plant and life sciences research centers and institutes endorsed a position paper​ in October that urgently calls upon European policymakers to safeguard innovation in plant science and agriculture.

The signatories of that paper said they were deeply concerned about the ECJ ruling saying it could lead to a de facto ban of innovative crop breeding. The implications of a very restrictive regulation of innovative plant breeding methods are far-reaching, they added.

“European agricultural innovation based on precision breeding will come to a halt because of the high threshold that this EU legislation presents. This will hinder progress in sustainable agriculture and will give a competitive disadvantage to plant breeding industries in Europe. The impacts on our society and economy will be enormous.”

To safeguard innovation in agriculture in Europe, the scientists are asking for a new regulatory framework that evaluates new crop varieties based on science.

“We regret the purely process-based interpretation of the legislation by the Court and conclude that the EU GMO legislation does not correctly reflect the current state of scientific knowledge.”

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