A European Court ruling widely interpreted to mean that all gene-edited organisms are GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) may not be as prescriptive as many first assumed.
In the ruling of July 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) confirmed that organisms obtained by newer methods of directed mutagenesis such as genome editing are not excluded from the scope of the EU GMO directive.
A key factor in interpreting the ruling, the authors argue, has been determining whether organisms fall under the GMO definition in the first place, because if they do not, then the exemption – and therefore the ruling – is not relevant to them. The EU definition of a GMO is where: ‘the genetic material of the resulting organisms has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.’
One of the authors Dr Penny Hundleby, from the John Innes Centre, said: “The concern among many in the scientific and plant breeding community at the CJEU ruling has been clear. We hope that this article, by analysing the ruling and the GMO definition in detail, will contribute to future policy development and provides a timely contribution to the on-going debate.
“The European scientific community needs the best possible tools to tackle the challenges ahead of climate change, food security and sustainable food production. For this reason, it is imperative that the regulatory status of organisms developed through novel genomic techniques is clarified as a matter of urgency.”