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Dutch Propose Exempting New GM Techniques From GMO Law

The Netherlands has proposed that new GM techniques should be specifically excluded from Europe's GMO directive.

That would mean that products developed using these techniques would not be subjected to the EU’s GMO regulations and would not be labelled as GMOs.

In common with other proponents of these techniques, the Netherlands refers to them as New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs), apparently in order to avoid the “hot button” term GM.

The new techniques include CRISPR-Cas, oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis, zinc finger nuclease technology, TALEN, and reverse breeding. These techniques are known to have off-target effects – which could give rise to unexpected toxicity in food crops.

The European Commission has delayed making a decision on the new GM techniques for years. There has been little policy discussion for ten years and the Commission has never published the legal analysis it commissioned.

The Commission has asked its Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) for a report on the new GM techniques and this is due to be discussed at a conference in Brussels on 28 September.

Health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis wants to launch a public debate.

The Netherlands is proposing that an exemption clause be used in the Directive 2001/18/EC which regulates GMOs.

The Dutch proposal says, “Consistent policy approaches are … required to improve the functioning of the internal market in Europe in conformity with the aim of the Directive, at the same time ensuring safety for human health and the environment.”

The Dutch proposal aims to exempt the products of new GM techniques from the “process-based” regulation currently applied to GMOs in the EU, which takes account of the uncertainties involved in the GM process. The proposal wants to use product-based regulation only. However, critics point out that product-based regulation only looks at the intended effects of the genetic modification procedure and will miss unintended effects.

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