EU Commission: ‘NGTs will lead to more resilient food systems’

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Axel Bueckert
© GettyImages/Axel Bueckert

Related tags new genomic techniques

The EU Commission has released a proposal today to lift restrictions for plants resulting from new gene-editing technology.

It said the move is part of a package of measures aimed at strengthening the resilience of EU food systems and farming.

Farmers and breeders need access to state of the art innovation, continued the EU executive.

“New Genomic Techniques (NGT) are innovative tools that help increase the sustainability and resilience of our food system. They allow developing improved plant varieties that are climate resilient, pest resistant, that require less fertilizers and pesticides and can ensure higher yields, helping to cut the use and risk of chemical pesticides in half, and reducing the EUs dependency on agricultural imports.”

In most cases, these new techniques lead to more targeted, precise, and faster changes than conventional techniques while growing a crop that is the same as what could have been achieved with classic techniques like seed selection and crossbreeding, reads the proposal​.

New rules

The Commission said its new rules would:

  • establish two categories of plants obtained by NGTs: NGT plants comparable to naturally occurring or conventional plants, and NGT plants with more complex modifications.
  • both categories will be subject to different requirements to reach the market considering their distinct characteristics and risk profiles. The plants from the first category will need to be notified. The plants from the second category will go through the more extensive process of the GMO directive.
  • give incentives to steer the development of plants towards more sustainability.
  • ensure transparency about all NGT plants on the EU market (through labelling of seeds, for example).
  • offer robust monitoring of economic, environmental, and social impacts of NGT products.

The proposal needs approval from the EU Parliament and EU governments and could yet go through a number of revisions.


EU farming lobby, Copa and Cogeca, welcomed the EC proposal.

“After more than a decade of postponements, the EU Commission has finally presented a proposal for a regulation on NGT plants.

“NGTs are part of the toolbox that enable breeders to speed up their breeding programs and bring faster and better plant varieties to the market, which must be accessible in all sectors and all regions helping European farmers, who face many challenges including the acceleration of climate change.”

But the European NON-GMO Association (ENGA) are totally opposed to the development, saying that GMO-free agriculture and food production is at stake

“With its proposed legislation on NGTs, published today, the EU Commission plans to unleash untested and unlabeled GMOs onto European fields, into the supermarkets and on to people’s plates. This goes directly against the wishes of the food sector, retailers, and EU citizens. By ignoring the 2018 EU Court of Justice ruling that confirmed that NGTs must be subject to risk assessment, traceability and labelling, it is an attack on GMO-free agriculture and food production in the EU.”

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