The European Commission (EC)’s draft policy on genetic editing in the European Union (EU) has been scheduled for the second quarter of next year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) wrote.

On 29 April last year, the EC published a study promoting these newer techniques as a potential tool to achieve the targets of the European Green Deal’s Farm to Fork (F2F) and Biodiversity strategies.

As the study found that the current GMO directive was not “fit for purpose”, the EC launched a policy initiative on 24 September 2021 to determine how to regulate these newer techniques, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) 6 December report ‘Biotechnology and other new production technologies annual’ said.

The policy initiative and roadmap, ‘Legislation for plants produced by certain new genomic techniques’, received more than 70,000 comments in the initial feedback period.

In early 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the EC noted the potential for “new genomic techniques” in its publication ‘Safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems’.

A 12-week public consultation period followed in April with the proposed legislation subsequently scheduled to be published in the second quarter of next year.

The commercial cultivation of genetically engineered (GE crops) in the EU is limited to 1% of the EU’s total corn area (around 68,000ha in Spain and 2,000ha in Portugal in 2022).

The single variety authorised for cultivation was banned in all or parts of 19 member states and the threat of destruction by activists and difficult marketing conditions also discouraged the cultivation of GE crops in general, the report said.

“For more than two decades, lack of appeal of GE foods over traditional ones combined with consistent fear mongering campaigns from anti-biotech groups, resulted in overall negative attitudes of European consumers toward GE products,” the USDA said.

The EU approval process for GE products consists of a scientific risk assessment phase, carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and a risk management phase, which is the responsibility of the EC, with input from member states.

In 2022, the EU issued six approvals and one renewal for GE crops, compared to 12 approvals and six renewals the previous year.

Currently no foods are produced from animal clones or GE animals in the EU due to low levels of consumer acceptance, the report said.