Lack of science and abundance of politics played a role in the recent decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) regarding gene editing technology, according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“Government policies should encourage scientific innovation without creating unnecessary barriers or unjustifiably stigmatizing new technologies,” Perdue said after the decision was released. “Unfortunately, this week’s ECJ ruling is a setback in this regard in that it narrowly considers newer genome editing methods to be within the scope of the European Union’s regressive and outdated regulations governing genetically modified organisms.”
In a ruling that took many officials world-wide by surprise, the European Court of Justice ruled that organisms obtained by gene editing techniques are subject to the same regulations as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Earlier this year, the ECJ’s advocate general said that in his opinion, there is a clear line between mutagenesis, which changes an organism’s DNA, and transgenics, which introduces the DNA from another species.
"We encourage the European Union to seek input from the scientific and agricultural communities, as well as its trading partners, in determining the appropriate implementation of the ruling,” Perdue said.
“Innovations in precision biotechnology, such as genome editing, hold great promise. For consumers, potential benefits include healthier, higher-quality foods at affordable prices. For farmers, they include improvements in productivity, plant and animal health, and environmental sustainability.
"The global regulatory treatment of genome-edited agricultural products has strategic innovation and trade implications for U.S. agriculture,” he said. “For this reason, USDA has clear science- and risk-based policies that enable needed innovation while continuing to ensure these products are safe. In light of the ECJ ruling, USDA will re-double its efforts to work with partners globally towards science- and risk-based regulatory approaches,” Perdue said.