Greenpeace, together with other non-governmental organisations, non-GMO food associations and a food retailer, claims that the first-ever public detection method for a gene-edited crop has been successfully developed and published. The new research refutes claims by the biotech industry and some regulators that new genetically modified (GM) crops engineered with gene editing are indistinguishable from similar, non-GM crops and therefore cannot be regulated, according to Greenpeace.
Heike Moldenhauer, EU policy advisor at the German Association Food without Genetic Engineering (VLOG), said: “The new detection method is a milestone in EU consumer and business protection. Authorities can now start identifying unauthorised gene-edited crops. This helps beekeepers, farmers, breeders, feed and food processors and retailers keep these new GMOs out of their supply chains and meet consumers’ demand for non-GMO food”.
The new method was published in the scientific journal Foods after peer review. It detects SU Canola, an oilseed rape variety engineered by the American gene-editing company Cibus to withstand certain herbicides.
"Much ado about nothing"
According to Euroseeds, however, Greenpeace's claim amounts to much ado about nothing.
Contrary to the sales pitch accompanying the media launch of the recent Greenpeace-sponsored study on detectability of specific breeding methods by seed testing, the content of the study itself actually doesn’t hold the promise, they say in a reaction.
"All the 'new' Greenpeace study shows is that known point mutations, as e.g. in some Cibus oilseed rape varieties, can be detected by quantitative PCR methods. This fact is neither new nor has there ever been any scientific doubt about it. Contrary to the claim of Greenpeace, the study and the method presented therein cannot and do not clarify whether the Cibus mutation in the AHAS1C gene is a random somaclonal variation (as it is stated in the citations given in the publication), or whether it is a mutation originating from the genome editing (ODM) technique. It is therefore still not possible to determine how the point mutation was generated and, consequently, if the resulting plant is considered a regulated GMO in the European Union.
"Therefore, the Greenpeace-sponsored study does not provide any 'solution' to the differentiation of genome edited mutagenesis products in view of their regulatory status worldwide. While classical transgenics are regulated similarly as GMOs in all countries, genome edited mutagenesis products are not regulated as GMOs in a growing number of countries (e.g. most South American Countries, the US, Australia, Japan). This means that if respective products are put on the market in those countries, neither a validated detection method nor information about the genetic change might be available."