Student Initiative Grow scientific progress: crops matter! organizes a pan-European petition to change European Union legislation on genome editing and new genomic techniques. Interested individuals can sign it at https://eci.ec.europa.eu/011/public/#/screen/home. If a million signatures of change supporters are collected by July 25 this year, the European Commission will have to act on the matter.
Representatives of the student initiative identify existing GMO legislation in the EU as obsolete. They call for improved definitions and further additions and simplification of the approval process for new breeding techniques whose products do not contain recombinant DNA, such as in transgenic organisms. Any adult citizen of the European Union can support a petition that has been registered by the European Commission.
Scientists from 121 European institutions also called for a change in legislation on genetically modified crops last year. They want to exempt the new genome modification methods, such as CRISPR, from directives concerning GMO. This initiative was joined by Czech researchers, including scientists from the Center of the Region of Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research. Its director Ivo Frébort and scientific director Jaroslav Doležel asked the prime minister and other Czech politicians to support a change of European legislation in this area in response to the ruling of the European Court of Justice already in December 2018. According to experts, EU legislation on GMOs does not reflect the current state of scientific knowledge. Plants that have undergone simple and targeted genome modifications by precision breeding CRISPR and that do not contain foreign genes are at least as safe as if they were derived from classical breeding techniques.
“While there are a growing number of countries in the world that allow these modern technologies, Europe remains conserved. Every month, the gap between the EU and progressive countries is increasing, which can have a very negative impact on European agriculture, food production and quality, as well as on the environment,” both directors agree. Professor Frébort, as a representative of the European Federation of Biotechnology, which is also seeking legislative change, participated in the European Commission meeting in Brussels this February and will further participate in the elaboration of an expert opinion in the survey commissioned by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety.
Last February, the Academic Senate of the Faculty of Science expressed its support for steps leading to an overall revision of legislation on genetically modified organisms.