Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voted in favour of simpler procedures regarding new genomic technique (NGT)-derived plants equivalent to conventional plants, while other NGT types must follow stricter rules.
Parliament adopted its stance for negotiations with member states about the Commission’s proposal on NGTs, which involve changing the genetic material of an organism, with 307 votes in favour, 263 against and 41 abstentions.
The aim is to enhance the sustainability and resilience of the food system by cultivating improved plant varieties that show climate resilience, resistance to pests, higher yields or reduced dependence on fertilisers and pesticides.
At present, all plants derived from NGTs are governed by the same regulations as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). MEPs support setting up two distinct categories and corresponding sets of regulations for NGT plants.
NGT plants considered equivalent to conventional varieties (NGT 1 plants) would be exempt from GMO legislation requirements, while other NGT plants (NGT 2 plants) would remain subject to stricter regulations. MEPs also advocate for mandatory labelling of products derived from both NGT 1 and NGT 2 plants.
Parliament also agrees that all NGT plants should remain prohibited in organic production as their compatibility requires further consideration and want the Commission to report on how consumers’ and producers’ perceptions of the new techniques are evolving.
MEPs propose amending the criteria regarding the size and number of modifications required for an NGT 1 plant to be deemed equivalent to conventional varieties. Additionally, to enhance transparency, MEPs support the establishment of a public online registry listing all NGT 1 plants.
For NGT 2 plants, MEPs agree to maintain most of the requirements of the GMO legislation, which are among the strictest in the world.
To encourage their adoption, MEPs endorse expediting the risk assessment process for NGT 2 plants anticipated to enhance sustainability in the agri-food sector. However, they emphasise that the precautionary principle must be upheld during this process.
MEPs advocate for a complete prohibition on patents for all NGT plants, including plant material, their components, genetic information and associated processes. This measure aims to prevent legal ambiguities, rising expenses and additional dependencies for farmers and breeders.
Furthermore, they requested a report by June 2025 to assess the impact of patents on breeders’ and farmers’ access to diverse plant reproductive materials. Additionally, MEPs request a legislative proposal to revise EU regulations on intellectual property rights accordingly.
Rapporteur Jessica Polfjärd from the Group of the European People’s Party, said: “NGTs are crucial to strengthen Europe’s food security and to green our agricultural production. The new rules will allow the development of improved plant varieties that can ensure higher yields, be climate resistant or which require fewer fertilisers and pesticides. I hope member states will soon adopt their position so we can adopt the new rules before the European elections and give the farmers the tools they need for the green transition.”
Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with EU member states on the final law.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2024