An increasingly accurate technology that can be used for the precision breeding of plants

Did you know that the European Court of Justice recently ruled that a new and promising precision breeding technique is not exempt from strict GMO rules? As young plant researchers, we are concerned that this will restrict the EU from using this tool to meet challenges of today and tomorrow.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled in July 2018 that plants obtained by precision breeding techniques such as those using CRISPR would be classified and subjected to laws for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The ruling of the ECJ is inconsistent, considering that plants obtained by less precise techniques are excluded from being labelled and regulated as GMOs.

“CRISPR has the potential to make big changes to our lives.”

Many young plant researchers in Europe are dedicated to contributing to the development of more climate resilient and more nutritious plant varieties. Given the current ecological and societal challenges we face, such innovations are urgently needed. CRISPR is an increasingly accurate technology that can be used for the precision breeding of plants. It is faster to use, relatively simple and versatile compared to previous breeding techniques. European agricultural innovation will be hindered by the ECJ ruling and the apparent lack of care from our policy makers.

“The EU GMO legislation does not correctly reflect the current state of scientific knowledge.”

The GMO laws were designed to regulate plants bred by traditional GM techniques that add genes from other species, while CRISPR-bred plants do not contain any foreign DNA. CRISPR can be used to make small DNA changes that are indistinguishable from changes made by other widely accepted breeding approaches – and these approaches are exempt from GMO regulations – but faster and with higher precision. So, we call upon all European and national authorities to quickly respond to the ECJ ruling and alter these laws.

“Young researchers are stepping up: we ask you to give CRISPR a chance.”

Many young scientists feel that CRISPR can contribute to the development of solutions for the challenges we face today and tomorrow.

As citizens and scientists, we want to make the general public, policy makers and politicians aware that we are concerned. We ask the EU authorities for evidence-informed policymaking in order to unlock scientific progress’s potential to help provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Give CRISPR a chance.