24 August 2020
Legislation and regulation of genome-edited crops is evolving rapidly across the globe to adapt to and keep pace with the new technology.
Genome-editing is a revolution for plant science, agriculture and innovation. The ability to easily and quickly produce plants with precise, targeted changes is a game-changer for the entire agricultural sector.
A recent report* compares the way countries have adapted their biosafety legislation to this emerging tool. The Southern Hemisphere, with the exception of New Zealand, has taken a science-led and future-facing approach. Argentina was the first country in 2015 to declare that genome-edited crops would not be regulated if they do not contain foreign DNA. This was followed by Chile, Brazil and Columbia.
In Australia, genome-editing applications that do not use a DNA template to guide the repair are now excluded from regulation, a first step towards futureproofing our regulations.
In contrast in Europe, the EU Court of Justice declared in 2018 that all genome-edited organisms are genetically modified and must continue to be regulated as such.
This decision has had a profoundly negative impact on researchers and farmers, locking them out of technological advances. In response, several agricultural companies have moved their breeding programs out of Europe. Governments such as Switzerland, Norway and the UK are considering new laws to ease approval for genome-edited products.
The development of new policies for genome-editing crops is an important and encouraging step for innovation and the plant science sector. Evidence-based regulatory systems will lead to the development of a wider range of products and benefits for global agriculture.