German chemical and biotech giants BASF and Bayer have both practically dismissed the possibility of developing gene edited (GE) plant varieties in Europe following the EU’s decision to regulate GE crops as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The EU on 25 July ruled that mutagenesis-based GE technologies – such as CRISPR – that could tinker with plants’ existing DNA to introduce changes without transgenesis, would fall under the bloc’s GMO regulations, wrote Reuters on 27 July.
“As we run a global platform, it would mean that basically the applications of these instruments would not be used in Europe and Germany,” said BASF chair of board and chief technology officer Martin Brudermueller.
“Overall, that does not impact us as a company too much, but as a European, I’m worried about what that means to Europeans,” he added.
BASF moved its plant research operations from Germany to the USA in 2012 due to regulatory uncertainty prevailing in Europe at the time, but earlier this year, BASF agreed to acquire most of Bayer’s European seed business following the latter’s June merger with Monsanto.
Bayer – the largest player in the seeds and pesticides marketplace following its merger – also ruled out any attempts to bring any mutagenesis GE crops to European markets, said Reuters.
A Bayer spokesman said that the firm had widened its definition of what constituted a “genetically modified” plant after the EU decision in order for its CEO Werner Baumann’s June declaration to not develop GM crops for commercial use in Europe to also apply to GE crops.
Swiss chemicals maker Syngenta, owned by ChemChina, also referred to a statement by the European Seed Association that much of the potential that GE technologies held would be lost for Europe.
According to Reuters, there were few, if any, commercial ventures based on GE in Europe and that the ruling by the European Court of Justice would result in prohibitively high market access costs, practically closing it for smaller companies.