Turning point in the debate on NGT plants

Report by French authority emphasises need for risk assessment

7. March 2024

7 March 2024 / A recently published report by the French Agency for Environmental Protection and Food Safety (ANSES) emphasises the need for mandatory risk assessment of plants derived from new genetic engineering (New GE or NGT). The authority demands that both intended and unintended genetic modifications must be taken into account. ANSES shows that the properties of NGT plants cannot be equated with those from conventional breeding.

The report thus contradicts the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission, among others. Both institutions do not consider a risk assessment to be necessary in most cases. Accordingly, the Commission proposes to simply equate the vast majority of NGT plants with those from conventional breeding. Although ANSES also comes to the conclusion that the requirements for risk assessment could be lowered for some NGT plants, risk assessment should never be dispensed with completely.

The reason for the differences in the opinions of ANSES and EFSA may lie in the methodology, among other things: ANSES examined a number of specific cases of NGT plants, while the EFSA report is based primarily on theoretical considerations. In addition, EFSA only looked at the type and number of mutations, but not at specific biological consequences triggered by the use of NGT processes.

The ANSES report was initially withheld by the French government and has only now been published, weeks after the EU Parliament voted on the legislative proposal to deregulate NGTs. A first partial report by ANSES had previously caused heated discussions. Despite all the controversy, the EU Commission, supported by the Belgian Council Presidency, is still trying to obtain a majority among EU member states to support the planned deregulation. Testbiotech is calling for the entire legislative process to be put on hold, as the EU Commission’s proposal does not take sufficient account of science.

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

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