Nobel laureates and scientific coalitions call on the European Parliament to embrace new genomic techniques for climate and food security. Within the EU, debates intensify over proposals to patent gene-edited plant. EP adopted its negotiating position while the Council’s presidency is still anxious to build a majority to adopt its position on NGTs which would open the way to trilogues.

While FAO studies the impact of biotechnologies on small farmers holders, the UK develop disease-resistant bananas.

New Breeding Techniques : a good news for farmers, tarnished by a request for labelling

With 307 votes in favour 263 against and 41 abstentions the report on the legal framework for New Genomic Techniques (NGT) was approved by the European Parliament. This is good news that will give farmers new tools to adapt to climate change and use less chemicals.

However, the European Parliament voted for a position that differs in many respects from that of the European Commission making it much more cautious towards NGTs. While the Commission basically equated NGT1 with conventional varieties the European Parliament demands that NGT1 must meet sustainability criteria and pass an environmental assessment in order to be placed on the market. In addition Farm Europe regrets that today’s vote calls for imposing labelling not only on reproductive plant material but also on final products containing NGT1.

While the Commission avoided the issue of patents postponing it to a different legislation the Parliament imposes a patent ban on new genomic techniques. On the organic the exclusion of NGTs is confirmed but the Commission is asked for a revision of this decision after 7 years from the entry into force of the regulation. This text will then have to be negotiated with the Council once the 27 Member States agree on a general approach. This afternoon the Belgian presidency at Coreper will try to make progress in this direction.


The proposals put forward by the EPP rapporteur for the European Parliament’s COMENVI committee have aroused opposition from the left-wing parties, particularly with regard to authorising the use of category 1 NGTs in organic farming. Alongside the European Parliament, which has stepped up the pace of its work, the Council of Agriculture Ministers is discussing the issue again on 20 November, with a view to adopting a general Council approach (the Council’s negotiating position with the European Parliament).

In Germany, the major retail groups are divided over the issue of NGTs and the need for labelling or not.

For Furhter


The German Research Ministry has decided to invest 50 millions in NGTs R&D while some organic association continue to oppose the proposal of the commission.

Convinced by the potential of NGTs, the EP rapporteurs and the Council’s presidency aim at reaching negotiating positions as soon as possible to begin trilogues’ negotiations in early 2024.

Outside the EU, the UK, China and the US progress in CRISPR technologies and modify pigs and chickens against different viruses.

NGTs : a step in the right direction by the European Commission

The publication of the proposal for a « Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on plants obtained by certain new genomic techniques and their food and feed » is scheduled for 5 July next, and the draft is circulating among the various DGs in an interservices procedure for final amendments before publication.

The text that is now circulating – unless any last-minute substantial changes – gives us an idea of the direction in which the Commission intends to go. It confirms our expectations, providing a good working basis on this file to boost innovation, and meet the health, climate and environmental challenges, ahead of the negotiations to come with the co-legislators. 

First of all, a clear distinction is made between 2 groups of NGTs:

1. Plants obtained through targeted mutagenesis or cisgenesis, which could also occur naturally or be produced through conventional breeding (‘category 1 NGT plants’) would be treated similarly to conventional plants and would not require authorisation, but a simple notification. In addition, a transparency register would be established. If the notification takes place before the field trial, the verification of the criteria takes place at Member State level and the national decision has EU-wide effects and also applies to the placing on the market. For placing on the market where no field trials have been carried out in the EU, including imports, the decision is taken by the Commission, after verification of the criteria by EFSA. No specific labelling would be required.

2.         All plants from NGTs that do not fall under the first case are called category 2 NGT plants’ and would fall under GMO legislation and therefore undergo an authorisation process. The risk assessment would be adapted to take into account their different risk profiles and measures would be introduced to incentivise plant products that could contribute to a sustainable agri-food system. Traceability would be maintained as well as labelling. On a voluntary basis, GMO labelling can be supplemented with information on the purpose of genetic modification, e.g. to increase the sustainability of the plant. Unlike for GMOs, for these plants it will not be possible for Member States to restrict their cultivation or circulation on the market. There will be regulatory incentives for (potential) applicants of category 2 NGT plants containing traits with the potential to contribute to a sustainable agri-food system, e.g. an accelerated procedure or where the applicant is an SME, it shall be exempted from the payment of the financial contributions to the Union Reference Laboratory and to the European Network of GMO Laboratories.

With respect to these two categories of NGTs, herbicide-tolerant NGT plants, even if they fulfil the notification criteria (category 1 NGT) will remain subject to authorisation and the related requirements, in order to be able to assess their impact on human and animal health and the environment in the medium and long term. “There is evidence to show that herbicide-resistant weeds may result from the combined use of herbicide-tolerant varieties and associated herbicide overuse, with potential health and agroecosystem impacts,” the Commission explains. 

As far as organic is concerned, according to the Commission initial draft, both NGT1 and NGT2 would be banned in organic production and to enable this, it would be mandatory to indicate the use of NGT in seed labelling. Member States would have to take implementing measures for coexistence.

Once formally adopted by the college of Commissioners on the 5th July, this proposal will be discussed under co-decision by the European Parliament and Council. Both ComENVI and ComAGRI will be involved until the end of this mandate. Most probably it will be up to the next Parliament to finalise the deal and negotiate with the Council.