Genome Editing for Crop Improvement

Symposium organised by ALLEA and the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (KVAB)

Genome editing, in particular the use of CRISPR-Cas9 and other site-directed mutagenesis methods, is a new technology that very precisely modifies the genes of organisms. In July 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that organisms obtained by genome editing techniques are subject to the strict conditions of the EU GMO legislation. This view has been widely challenged by scientists. The types of modifications generated by genome editing are much more precise than those derived by chemical and radiation mutagenesis, two techniques that are widely used in classical breeding and are exempt from the GMO legislation. Therefore, scientists consider genome edited crops that do not contain foreign DNA to be at least as safe as those derived from classical breeding. Furthermore, the CJEU ruling is in sharp contrast to legislation in many other countries that exempt genome edited crops from their respective GMO legislations. The ALLEA-KVAB symposium will assess the impact of the decision of the CJEU on present research and developments in genome editing in plant breeding.

The symposium aims at providing an overview of the scientific evidence with respect to safety of genome edited crops and the possible impact of the technology for providing solutions to current and future problems in agriculture. The symposium will also address the economic consequences of the CJEU ruling as it is likely to affect international trade of food and feed. In addition, it will discuss issues related to the detection of the use of genome editing techniques for crop improvement. It will also examine whether mechanisms are in place which guarantee the safety of novel crop traits, irrespective of the way they are produced. Finally, the symposium will address the application and impact of intellectual property rights on genome editing techniques and genome edited plants.

Topics to be addressed during the symposium:

  • The science behind genome editing
  • What can genome editing deliver for agriculture?
  • Societal considerations related to agricultural applications of genome editing
  • Traceability and impact on international trade
  • Regulatory and legislation


7 November

12:00Registration and sandwich lunch
14:00Welcome address and terms of reference
14:30Session 1: The science behind genome editing
15:00Session 2: What can genome editing deliver for agriculture?
15:30Coffee break
16:00Session 3: Societal considerations related to agricultural applications of genome editing
16:30Session 4: Traceability and impact on international trade
17:00Session 5: Regulattion and legislation
17:30General discussion
Setting the agenda for day 2

8 November

9:00Re-Opening and introduction of break-out sessions
9:15Break-out sessions: science/societal impact/traceability and international
trade/regulatory and legislation
10:15Coffee break
10:30Plenary session with reports of the four break-out sessions
11:30General discussion and steps forward
12:00Concluding remarks


7-8 November 2019

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Open to the public; registration mandatory

To register, please send an e-mail to


Academy Palace
Rue Ducale 1
1000 Bruxelles, Belgium



Robert Vogt
ALLEA Executive Officer