Final vote in plenary beginning of February
24 January 2024 / The EU Parliament's Environment Committee today voted in favour of a far-reaching deregulation of plants obtained by new genetic engineering (NGT). The decision was preceded by a massive lobbying campaign by industry and affiliated stakeholders, supported by the EU Commission.
According to the committee's decision, this would allow genetically engineered plants with completely new properties to be released into the environment and to be used for food production without undergoing risk assessment. Even trees and shrubs, grasses and other wild plants would be affected, as the proposal for deregulation is not limited to arable plants. The impact on ecosystems and biodiversity could be disastrous.
The committee has also established some hurdles for an uncontrolled market launch: for example, comprehensive molecular genetic data is required before a plant can be declared safe. If there is a threat of uncontrolled spread, applications for the introduction of NGT plants should be treated with the utmost caution. However, it seems questionable what effect these changes will actually have.
If the plenary of the EU Parliament approves the committee's proposals, the interests of consumers and food producers would suffer considerable damage, as labeling would no longer be mandatory and it would hardly be possible to separate the lines of food production.
The problem of patenting remains unsolved by today's decision. The decision creates the false impression that the EU could ban patents on NGT plants. Thereby, effective decision making is replaced by a symbolic policy that aims to increase the acceptance of NGT plants. As a result, patents can even be granted on conventionally bred plants.
After the EU Parliament, the EU Council of Ministers still has to vote on its position. Criticism of the planned deregulation has recently increased significantly in both the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
Testbiotech warns not to repeat old mistakes: in 1998, industry, with the help of the EU Commission, prevailed on the issue of patents on plants and seeds: For the first time, genetically engineered plants were declared to be patentable inventions. This was preceded by a campaign by industry, which instrumentalized experts and civil society groups for its purposes. Today, many Members of Parliament would like to correct this mistake. But this is proving almost impossible. Also the decision now pending could have serious and almost irreversible consequences for future generations. Therefore, Testbiotech urges the plenary of the EU Parliament not to approve the current text.
Christoph Then, email@example.com, Tel + 49 151 54638040