Differences between conventional breeding and genetic engineering: An assessment of the statement made by the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors’ (SAM)

TESTBIOTECH Background 04 - 12 - 2019

Testbiotech became aware of the ‘Statement by the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors’ (SAM), titled: “A Scientific Perspective on the Regulatory Status of Products Derived from Gene Editing and the Implications for the GMO Directive” (SAM 2018). After detailed analysis, we concluded that this statement needs to be revised. Many of the arguments used in the SAM (2018) statement are insufficiently science-based. Some of them appear to be less than scientific and rather more political; they may even be considered biased and populist.
Most worrying is that SAM uses an array of arguments that are also repeatedly used by various other stakeholders and proponents of deregulation of GMOs derived from new methods of genetic engineering. SAM wrongly claims that:

  • no distinction can be made between the ‘naturalness’ of genetic engineering compared to conventional breeding;
  • precision means safety; therefore, genetic engineering is less risky than conventional breeding; all genetically modified organisms should be treated equally;
  • organisms derived from new methods of genetic engineering cannot be detected.

We were, in fact, surprised that the SAM statement, which supposedly represents the highest possible standards of scientific expertise, was thoroughly lacking in sufficiently rigorous scrutiny. If this statement is presented to political decision-makers, it is likely to convey a completely false impression and lead to erroneous conclusions.

In the following sections, we present some of our findings to illustrate the need for major revision of the SAM statement.

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PDF icon TBT analysis of SAM_2018.pdf154.56 KB
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