By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS – In-vitro plant gene editing techniques that are used conventionally and have a long safety record are excluded from EU laws restricting the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Europe’s highest court said on Tuesday.
The long-running saga started in 2015 when a group of French agricultural associations took their grievance to a French court, saying plant varieties obtained via mutagenesis should not be exempt from GMO rules under French law.
The French court subsequently sought advice from the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
“Organisms obtained by the in vitro application of a technique/method of mutagenesis which has conventionally been used in a number of in vivo applications and has a long safety record with regard to those applications are excluded from the scope of that directive,” the CJEU said.
In vitro gene editing technique means the mutagenic agents are applied to plant cells and the whole plant is then artificially reconstituted while in vivo, the mutagenic agents are applied to the whole plant or plant parts.
Environmentalists, anti-GM groups and farmers have said allowing gene editing would usher in a new era of “GMO 2.0″ via the backdoor.
The bioindustry however argued that gene editing could result in hardier and more nutritious crops – as well as offering drug companies new ways to fight human disease.
The case is C-688/21 Confédération paysanne e.a. (Mutagenèse aléatoire in vitro).