In a critical decision reported by the BBC, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that next-gen gene editing techniques are classified as genetic engineering, and will be regulated under Europe’s strict GMO laws.
As the EU’s top court, it has final say on whether products produced via CRISPR or other gene editing methods would have to be labeled and regulated as GMOs. The court determined that gene-editing was a form of mutagenesis, defined as “any alteration to a genome.” Their ruling makes it clear that “organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs within the meaning of the GMO Directive.”
This ruling also means that these new GE techniques will be subject to a rigorous risk assessment process. In a recent e-newsletter, GMWatch quotes well-known molecular geneticist Dr. Michael Antoniou (see here for some of his publications on the Managing Weeds for Healthy Kids project bibliography), who is based out of London:
“”It is particularly insightful of the [European Court of Justice] that it perceives the risks arising from these new mutagenesis techniques can be as great as those from old-style transgenesis GM methods. Thus it is important that the organisms derived from these new techniques are subject to the GMO regulatory system.”
This is an important development, with implications beyond Europe. CRISPR and other gene-editing practices are poised to take off in the U.S., where GMOs are not as strictly regulated as in Europe. Over time, this decision will likely complicate food and crop commodity exports to Europe, and potentially put American farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
GMWatch, “EU’s top court confirms safety checks meeded for new GM,” GMWatch E-Newsletter, July 25, 2018.
Paul Rincon, “Gene editing is GM, says European Court,” BBC News, July 25, 2018.