New genetic engineering technology: tests and testing procedures

New genetic engineering technology: tests and testing procedures

National authorities are obliged to monitor compliance with the ‘Deliberate Release Directive’ (Directive 2001/18/EC). The CJEU judgment of 25 July 2018 sets out that plants produced with new genetic engineering technology must also be rated as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) under the Directive. A soya plant produced with the new technology by the Calyxt Company, for example, is being cultivated in the US.

German Member of European Parliament (MEP) Martin Hausling of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, on 15 October 2020 posed a written question to the European Commission asking the Commission to explain if national authorities are “able to test for products produced with new genetic engineering technology such as this kind of soya, which are not permitted in the EU?”  He also requested to know “what are the requirements governing the testing procedure for such products?” and “do the same requirements apply to GMOs permitted in the EU as to GMOs not permitted in the EU?”

These questions were responded to by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, responsible for Health and Food Safety, on 12 November, on behalf of the European Commission. She reported that “the European Union Reference Laboratory for Genetically modified food and feed (EURL GMFF) in collaboration with the European Network for genetically modified organisms (GMO) Laboratories (ENGL) has considered the possibilities and challenges of testing for plants and plant products produced with new genomic techniques”. She further added that “on 26 March 2019, the ENGL published the resulting report ‘Detection of food and feed plant products obtained by new mutagenesis techniques’” and that “the report highlighted that detection of certain types of gene-edited products could be challenging” and “the EURL has presented this publicly available report to the national competent authorities at several occasions”.

Commissioner Kyriakides also stated that “As explained in this report, testing procedures used by national authorities should fulfil the minimum performance requirements for analytical methods for GMO testing as laid down by the ENGL”. Lastly, Commissioner Kyriakides declared that “these minimum performance requirements apply to all methods for GMO analysis performed during enforcement of GMO legislation”.

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