Crucial questions on future regulation of NGT plants still unresolved
6 February 2024 / A new study, which has appeared as a 'preprint', highlights the environmental risks associated with the use of new genetic engineering (NGTs) in oilseed crops, such as rapeseed and camelina. These plants are by no means harmless in the environment: a frequently pursued goal is a change in the composition of the oil. However, both increasing and decreasing the polyunsaturated fatty acid content can have negative effects on pollinators feeding on the pollen of the NGT plants.
Furthermore, if NGT plants are introduced into agriculture, it is not unlikely that many different genetically engineered plants could be simultaneously released into the environment. Once released, the plants may interbreed with each other or with wildlife species, and thus spread in the environment.
As the study also shows, it is almost impossible to predict the risks to humans and the environment resulting from further developments of the technology. These will depend on various factors, such as the speed at which new plants are developed, their characteristics and the number of plants released. A particular problem here is the dynamic of the developments. For example, the options for genetic engineering interventions continue to grow, in part due to digital platforms and databases for selecting new gene combinations.
Against this background, the study recommends not only the risk assessment of individual plants, but also to establish processes and methods of monitoring possible interactions between different NGT plants sharing the same receiving environment. Additional legislation will be needed to strictly limit possible releases in space and time if necessary.
MEPs at the EU Parliament and representatives of the EU member states plan to vote tomorrow on the future regulation of NGT plants. According to the current proposals, this could result in far-reaching deregulation, so that neither risk assessment nor monitoring of genetically modified plants would be required in future.
A letter from the chair of the Environmental Commitee, Pasal Canfin, to President of the EU Parliament, Roberta Metsola, shows how ill-considered the current proposals are. The letter asks for an answer in response to the opinion of the competent French authority, ANSES. This authority comes to different conclusions on key points of the future regulation of NGT plants than the EU Commission and EFSA. The deadline given to EFSA would be July 2024. Against this background, Testbiotech is calling for the planned votes to be postponed until the EFSA response is available or to reject the proposal.
Christoph Then, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel + 49 151 54638040