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EU scientific advisors call for changing the genetic engineering law

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Working in a laboratory.
Some scientific advisors call for a change of the gentic engineering legislation by the EU Commission. © Shutterstock/andriano

The scientific advisors to the EU Commission have presented a paper in which they urge the Commission to change genetic engineering legislation. Some European and German politicians agree.

The EU Commission has created a framework for scientific advice, the Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM). Within this framework, a group of seven scientists serves as its chief advisor. They argue in their paper that genome editing is safer than classical mutation methods and is difficult or impossible to detect. In addition, the application of genetic engineering law would lead to complex approval procedures, discourage investors, hamper research and limit the marketing of genetically modified foods. The attitude of EU advisers is not new. They had already published a report on new genetic engineering breeding methods in May 2017, highlighting in particular the advantages claimed by users and supporters of the new methods.

The paper of these high-ranking EU advisers is water on the mill of politicians who, like Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, are calling for a "science-based" debate. Because this term actually means: genetic engineering researchers are right and all other arguments are unscientific propaganda. Therefore, the law must be adapted to the needs of researchers. EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas made it very clear during the presentation of the SAM paper. The consultants' paper contained valuable suggestions for "our reflections for a future review of the scheme". This review should ensure that the law is in line with the state of the art (original: "so that our laws can keep up with our labs").

In their focus on the alleged advantages of genome editing, these politicians overlook the fact that there is intense discussion within the scientific community itself and no consensus at all. The ENSSER (European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility), for example, calls for strict regulation of new technologies, as they are by no means as precise as is claimed.

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