Belgian expert commission presents misleading report on NGT plants

Reasoning for deregulation without substance

26. March 2024

Most experts from EU member states are likely to find the latest report from the Belgian Superior Health Council (SHC) not very helpful. Apparently, the report was published to support the Belgian Council Presidency and the EU Commission in their efforts to deregulate plants obtained by new genetic engineering (NGT). However, the content is disappointing and partly misleading.

Unlike the French authority ANSES, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Federal Environment Agency in Austria (UBA), the SHC deals with the technology more theoretically, but without looking at specific NGT applications on plants and their risks. Very dubious generalizations are repeated and sweeping benefits are claimed without showing in detail which NGT applications could contribute to solving current problems and how.

In addition, the report contains wrong statements, such as that non-browning mushrooms obtained by new genetic engineering are already being sold in the USA, or NGT plants are not genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

So far, the EU member states have not succeeded in agreeing on a proposal for the future regulation of plants from new genetic engineering. One reason for this is a scientifically flawed proposal from the EU Commission, whose criteria are completely inadequate for making decisions on whether NGT plants could be treated the same as those from conventional breeding.

Testbiotech has repeatedly pointed to specific examples, including tomatoes, camelina, rice, wheat, mustard plants and poplars to show how big the differences are between political claims, economic expectations and scientific findings. It is regrettable that the Belgian expert commission omitted from their report nearly anything that might conflict with the objectives of current EU Commission policy and the interests of industry.

Christoph Then,, Tel + 49 151 54638040

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