Genome editing has been and continues to be one of the most hotly contested yet simultaneously most ground-breaking innovations of the past years and decades. Open questions and resulting legislative uncertainty remain at the top of the agenda. Key points are still in need of resolution for genome editing technologies to fulfill their promised potential while also ensuring their use within socially and ethically accepted frameworks.

As genome editing has implications for society as much as it has for its scholarly environment, an interdisciplinary approach is needed which harmonises what science can do with what society is willing to accept.

ALLEA is working on genome editing from a variety of angles. Our Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights has repeatedly published on the legal aspects of patenting inventions deriving from genome editing. Similarly, experts from the Working Group on Science & Ethics frequently contribute their expertise on discussions surrounding the conditions for the ethical use of genome editing techniques.

Genome Editing for Crop Improvement

ALLEA and the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts hosted a symposium on genome editing for crop improvement on 7/8 November in Brussels.

The symposium provided 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 further addressed the economic consequences of the recent Court of Justice of the European Union ruling as it is likely to affect international trade of food and feed. In addition, it  discussed issues related to the detection of the use of genome editing techniques for crop improvement and examined whether mechanisms are in place which guarantee the safety of novel crop traits, irrespective of the way they are produced. Finally, the symposium addressed the application and impact of intellectual property rights on genome editing techniques and genome edited plants.

A symposium report is currently under preparation and will be finalised in the first half of 2020.

Topics 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 issues
  • Regulatory and legislation

Related Publications