On 21 October 2021, ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, responded to the European Commission’s public consultation on ‘legislation for plants produced by certain new genomic techniques (NGTs)’.
ALLEA has a long-standing interest in providing independent scientific advice to European policymakers and society. In this context, it has engaged in several activities that explore the potential applications and risks of genome editing for crop improvement. In its statement, ALLEA stresses that maintaining the status quo is not an option and welcomes the European Commission’s request for feedback on its initiative to develop new legislation for plants produced by NGTs, such as the CRISPR-Cas technology for genome editing.
“[T]he increasing global demands (both in quality and quantity) on our food systems, as well as the challenges imposed on the agriculture sector by climate change, are huge and it seems unreasonable to exclude possible solutions that may allow opposing these challenges.”
The response to the European Commission’s consultation summarises key elements from the ALLEA report “Genome Editing for Crop Improvement”, which is based on expert discussions during the joint ALLEA and Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (KVAB) symposium on the topic in November 2019. Building on this report, ALLEA is currently participating as a knowledge partner in the cross-disciplinary Task Force on “Sustainable Agriculture and Innovation“, led by the European think-tank Re-Imagine Europa. The consultation response lists the desired attributes of an ideal regulatory system together with possible directions for future legislation, as described in detail in the task force’s recent White Paper on the Regulation of Genome Editing in Agriculture.
ALLEA urges “NGTs to be considered an important tool for delivering on the goals of the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy, whilst maintaining high health and environmental standards”, and emphasises the need to engage in constructive dialogue with stakeholders and European citizens on this contested topic.
ALLEA’s full response to the European Commission’s consultation can be found here.