The European Commission (EC) is reviewing its approach to new genomic techniques (NGT) following a report published on 29 April saying they had the potential to contribute to a more sustainable food system.

According to the EC-commissioned report, new genomic techniques (NGTs) such as CRISPR/Cas met the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy.

“Any further policy action should aim at enabling NGT products to contribute to sustainability, while addressing concerns,” the report said.

“At the same time, NGT applications in the agricultural sector should not undermine other aspects of sustainable food production.”

The study defined NGTs as techniques capable of changing the genetic material of an organism and that had emerged or been developed since 2001, when the existing GMO legislation had been adopted. The use of NGTs in plants, animals and micro-organisms for agri-food, industrial and pharmaceutical applications were included in the study.

In its conclusion, the study highlighted the limitations of legislation to keep pace with scientific developments noting that this caused implementation challenges and legal uncertainties.

“There are strong indications that the applicable legislation is not fit for purpose for some NGTs and their products, and that it needs to be adapted to scientific and technological progress,” the report concluded.

“The follow up to the study should confirm whether adaptation is needed and, if so, what form it should take and which policy instruments should be used in order for the legislation to be resilient, future-proof and uniformly applied.”

The EC said it planned to initiate a policy action on plants produced by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis, which would involve an impact assessment including a public consultation.