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European Alliance of Initiatives
for Applied Anthroposophy

European Commission threatens the freedom of choice of consumers and farmers

Dear Friends of ELIANT,

On April 29, the European Commission published a study on New Genomic Techniques (NGTs). According to the outcomes of the study, "the current 2001 Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) legislation needs adaptation to scientific and technological progress". Specifically, this means that NGTs and their products would no longer be subject to prior risk assessment and authorisation. The consequence: We citizens would not know whether we are buying products manufactured with an NGT technology, since they would no longer have to be labelled as such.

What are NGTs?

NGTs have developed further over the last twenty years since the first GMOs appeared and now include a wide variety of different technologies including CRISPR. Their aim is the same: To modify the genome of an organism by either introducing genetic material or enacting a change to the genetic material in the cell.

Unlike GMOs, NGTs do not necessarily introduce foreign genetic material, they can modify the genome by cutting, editing, or silencing strands of DNA from the same organism. Such techniques increase the range of possibilities and speed with which the genetic material of organisms may be modified.

Up to now, all NGTs and their products fall within the scope of the current GMO legislation according to a Ruling of the European Court of Justice in 2018 which upholds the precautionary principle. The agricultural biotech industry however sees a huge potential in the use of NGTs in the agri-food sector and is pushing very strongly for a weakening of the regulation.

What are the risks and threats?

Despite the greater precision of NGTs, the risks and dangers remain. The process still involves potentially random events whose end results cannot be predicted as well as unforeseeable consequences for the repair mechanism of the cell.

It is therefore vital that we raise our voices now by reaching out to the European Parliament and calling on the ministries of agriculture and environment to oppose any deregulation. Ensuring freedom of choice for both consumers and farmers should remain our priority for the sake of future generations. It is time the European Commission proposes a structural change of the agri-food system – for the sake of our and our children's health and for the environment.

What are the next steps?

In view of forthcoming discussions about a potential new policy on NGTs, the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International has already urged the European Commission and EU Member States to "take a clear stand against a deregulation of all NGTs and fully enforcing the precautionary principle of the European Court of Justice (ECJ)."

It is still unclear how Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will position themselves on this matter. A broad section of the European People's Party (EPP) group however is voicing strong support for the potential of NGTs.

You can help retain our options of choice and those of farmers by joining campaigns for a declaration about NGT's in your country. We are co-responsible as citizens! We can raise our voices and campaign for transparency in the declarations and to maintain the availability of choices.

With great thanks for your commitment and warmest regards
Michaela Glöckler

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