A European Union (EU) court decision to put crops developed using gene-editing technique under strict genetically modified organisms (GMOs) regulations has been opposed by France, the country’s agriculture minister was reported as saying by Reuters on 18 January.

The French government’s opposition to the decision was based on the premise that it regards gene-edited (GE) crops as different to GMOs, according to Reuters.

In 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that mutagenesis, among so-called New Breeding Techniques (NBT) based on targeted editing of genes, fell under rules applying to GMOs that incorporate DNA from a different species, Reuters said.

That decision had been welcomed by some environmentalists who had long opposed GMOs as a threat to ecosystems, according to Reuters. However, seed makers and scientists had criticised the ruling saying it penalised Europe’s agricultural research capacity.

“NBTs are not GMOs,” agriculture minister Julien Denormandie was quoted as saying in an interview published by several farming news outlets, including Agra Presse on 15 January, Reuters said.

“This (NBT) technology allows much quicker development of a variety that could have emerged naturally at some point, and that is a very good thing,” he reportedly said, calling for NBT not to be regulated like GMOs.

The minister’s comments had been confirmed by the agriculture ministry on 18 January, Reuters said.

In late 2019, the EU’s executive had requested a study on the issue that was due to be submitted by the end of April this year, according to Reuters.

France had banned the cultivation of GMO crops, Reuters said, while in January, England’s farming minister had announced a public consultation on gene editing in agriculture, saying Britain’s exit from the EU now allowed it to set its own rules.

The French government was also considering how to respond to a ruling last year by the country’s top administrative court requiring it to change its mutagenesis regulations in line with the EU court’s decision, Reuters said.