SLU news

He wants to get the GMO legislation back on the sustainability track

Published: 15 May 2018
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The EU does not implement the regulations on genetically modified organisms as it was intended from the beginning. Instead of protecting the environment and human health the interpretation of the framework hinders a sustainable future crop production.

Legislators presented the early draft legislative texts on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) three decades ago. The purpose of the regulatory framework was to be cautious about new technologies and to ensure that the environment and human health are not exposed to risks. A lot has happened since then. Techniques used by scientists to combine DNA molecules and regulate different crop traits have become more advanced and the GM crops that have so far become food and animal feed have proven to be as safe to eat as crops bred by conventional methods such as cross breeding. The regulations have instead become an obstacle to applications that promote health and the environment.

– The progress within biotechnology has been outstanding, but the legislation surrounding the technologies is basically standing still. Those who make decisions about GMOs in the EU have neither developed nor interpreted the GMO regulations as it was originally intended, says Dennis Eriksson who is studying GMO legislation in the EU, in the Mistra Biotech research programme at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

In a recently published opinion in the scientific journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, Dennis Eriksson lists four details which he thinks policy makers in the EU need to consider in their discussions on GMOs.

  • Focus on the organisms and products, instead of the technology.
  • Update and adapt the directives regularly, in line with the technological progress in the field of biology.
  • Acknowledge that the hitherto cultivated genetically modified crops and products, during many years of cultivation and use, have not shown any health risks.
  • Take into account all the potential benefits of different genetically modified organisms and products. That is, benefits for agriculture, the environment and the economy.

The EU needs to recover the original intentions of the GMO legislation, it is absolutely necessary, says Dennis Eriksson.

– We need an updated legislation, and an interpretation of the same, which acknowledge the traits and benefits of the crops. It is obvious in documents from the late 1980s that that was the original idea on how the regulatory framework should work.

Read the full article: “Recovering the original intentions of risk assessment and management of genetically modified organisms in the European Union

Contact:

Dennis Eriksson, researcher at the Department of Plant Breeding, SLU +46 (0)40-41 54 52, dennis.eriksson@slu.se

Facts:

In 1988, the Commission of the European Communities made the draft underlying the first Directive (Dir 90/220 / EEC) on the deliberate release of GMO into the environment. Dir 90/220 / EEC was repealed and replaced in 2001 by Directive 2001/18 / EC. This meant that the decision-making process went from being handled at national level to centralization within the EU, and in 2002 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was established to make risk assessments of GMOs.

Decisions about approvals of cultivation of GM crops and consumption of GM products are now taken by qualified majority in a committee of representatives from all EU Member States. However, a major problem is that qualified majority is never achieved, at least when it´s about cultivation, as many Member States do not comply with EFSA recommendations.


Contact

mistrabiotech@slu.se

+46 (0)18 672232

Page editor: anna.lehrman@slu.se