Discussion about field trials with genetically engineered plants in the EU

27. June 2024

According to media reports, a field trial in Italy with rice obtained from new genetic engineering (NGTs) was damaged intentionally. Currently it seems unclear who is responsible for this activity, it is also not known why it happened. Some social media users have used the incident as an opportunity to discredit people and organisations opposing the planned deregulation of NGT plants.

The lobbyists in favour of deregulating NGT plants want to ensure that plants developed with NGTs are brought to market as quickly as possible, without mandatory risk assessment. They often create the false impression that field trials would not be possible in the EU without deregulation.

As shown by a Testbiotech database, nearly 50 field trials with NGT plants have already been registered in the EU, England and Switzerland. Around 30 of these trials are being conducted in the EU, mainly in Sweden, Belgium and Spain, and three of them in Italy. Amongst others, potato, maize, wheat, tomato, grapevine and poplar are being tested in field conditions. So far, there appear to be no further reports of any actions against these trials.

Testbiotech is of the opinion that it is necessary to carry out in-depth research, including field trials, on the risks before NGT plants are used in agriculture, and therefore rejects actions taken to damage field trials. The NGT rice being grown in Italy carries a number of genetic changes and gene combinations that could be hardly achieved with conventional breeding. It is, therefore, essential to investigate the associated risks.

If field trials with NGT plants are carried out, it must be ensured that uncontrolled spread can be prevented and negative effects on the environment can be ruled out. The trials in Italy are close to other rice fields. In these conditions, there is a general risk of unintentional gene flow and spread.

Testbiotech does not know whether the measures taken in Italy are sufficient to prevent the plants from escaping into the environment, e.g. during floods or storms. Moreover, there is no adequate information available on whether the trials are actually suitable for investigating the risks.

Contact:
Christoph Then, info@testbiotech.org, Tel +49 151 54638040

Further Information:

Database about field trials of plants derived from new genetic engineering – development in Europe

Testbiotech report on the field trials in Italy

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