The arguments about risk and unnaturalness that support the European Union’s strict policy on genetically modified crops don’t stand up to scrutiny, a new study concludes.
The paper in Transgenic Research also says that the use of genetically modified (GM) plants is consistent with the principles of organic farming.
The EU’s rules on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are so restrictive that it is virtually impossible to get an authorization for cultivating a GM crop within the EU—which means that only one GM crop has prior authorization in the EU.
And even if a GMO crop does get authorization, individual member states may still ban the crop. This is untenable, argue researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark, because EU regulation may stand in the way of important agricultural innovation that could provide more sustainable and climate-friendly solutions—and because the strict regulation cannot be justified.
CHEMICAL WASHING VS. CRISPR
In a 2010 Eurobarometer survey, 70 percent of Europeans agreed “that GMO food is fundamentally unnatural.” Unnaturalness is a common argument against GMO crops and foods, and mentions of it appear specifically in EU legislation.
“Unnaturalness, firstly, has many different meanings so even though there are cogent arguments that GMO’s in some respects are more unnatural than non-GMO’s, there are also cogent arguments that many GMO’s are just as natural or unnatural as their conventional counterparts,” says Christiansen.
According to the researchers, many novel gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas9, are much more precise and cause fewer alterations in plants than traditional breeding methods, in which, for example, plant seeds are washed with chemicals in order to provoke mutations. CRISPR/Cas9, however, appears in the restrictive EU legislation whereas the chemically induced breeding is not.
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