The impact asssessment (IA) on New Genomic Techniques will focus on plants obtained by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis. “New Genomic Techniques” is a term invented by EU institutions – with the intention to avoid the legally correct term GMOs as confirmed by the European Court of Justice in its judgement from July 2018. Plants created by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis are GMOs without the integration of DNA from other species.
With the IA, the EU Commission (EC) elicts which policy options might be politically feasible. As a rule, the EC publishes the results of an IA together with a legislative proposal. This is expected in the second quarter of 2023, to be then negotiated with Member States and EU Parliament.
Why is the Impact Assessment about Freedom to Conduct Non-GMO Business?
The EC’s inception impact assessment (IIA), conducted in autumn 2021, made very clear that business interests in the field of GMOs will be at least contradictory and could most likely even exclude each other. Under the heading „Likely impacts on fundamental rights“ the IIA states:
„Adapting legal requirements for plants obtained by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis in accordance with their risk levels may bring new opportunities for agri-food system and biotechnology operators, as well as researchers, and SMEs, enhancing their freedom to conduct their business. Organic and GM-free operators have expressed concerns that their freedom to conduct business might be negatively affected“.
An adaption of the existing legal requirements for new GMOs, e.g. by lowering or abolishing the standards for risk assessment, traceability and transparency will expand the freedom to conduct business for agri-food system operators such as commodity traders, some farmers and biotechnology operators such as Bayer and Corteva. However, such a deregulation – as currently being vehemently pushed for my many players on European level - will massively interfere with the freedom to conduct business for the conventional and organic Non-GMO sectors.
This will apply to both regulated and deregulated new GMOs. For regulated new GMOs costly and complex systems will be needed, in order to thoroughly separate the flow of goods. As there is no polluter-pays principle established in the EU, it will be the Non-GMO producers who have to bear the costs for product separation, analysis and monitoring.
For new GMOs deregulated on the EU market, traceability and labelling requirements will be eliminated. In order to credibly label „Non-GMO”, economic operators need to have full transparency throughout the whole value chain about which products are made with or by GMOs. Without this knowledge they run the risk to sell their customers (B2B as well as B2C) unwittingly and unintentionally new GMOs.
Deregulation of New GMOs: What is at Stake for the Conventional and Organic Non-GMO Sector?
- Loss of control over all value chains due to lack of GMO labelling: After a deregulation, new GMOs can be present everywhere in agriculture and in food and feed production, not only in Non-GMO and organic value chains.
- Loss of consumer trust: Any Non-GMO label needs to be able to fully guarantee “production without the use of genetic engineering” – including “old” as well as “new” methods of genetic engineering. Without such a comprehensive claim any label would become implausible – and consequently invalid to both producers and consumers. This is just as valid for the organic sector: EU regulation foresees that for organic products the absence of GMOs is compulsory. Consequently, with a deregulation or lowering of standards, a major selling point would be at risk for the organic sector. The EU Commission’s own target in its Green Deal, to raise the share of organic production by 25% until 2030, will be in jeopardy.
- Loss of investments throughout the whole Non-GMO value chain. To label Non-GMO feed and food operators substantially invested in changing recipes and formulations, developing quality management systems, establishing segregation in production and transport, installing certification systems by external certification bodies, and informing consumers of the advantages of Non-GMO food with widescale marketing campaigns. Who will be liable if these investments turn out to be in vain?
- The need to develop fully separated value chains (from seeds to agriculture to feed to food production to retail) would be highly complex and expensive, hardly feasible or even impossible.
- Massive setbacks for the conventional and organic Non-GMO markets – despite the fact that they have been booming throughout Europe for more than ten years and commonly are considered to be strong future markets. Market research all over Europe clearly shows: Consumers have the wish to be able to buy food free from GMOs – and expect from their retailers and food producers to credibly fulfil this expectation.