How the EU's Stance on Gene Editing May Evolve

Jan 29, 2018 | 18:21 GMT

A laboratory engineer controls the quality of a preparation at a biotechnology company in southwestern France in 2016.

Countries around the world are working to decide how to regulate efficient, cheap methods of gene editing such as the CRISPR technique. 



  • Emerging technologies, such as CRISPR, are forcing regulators in the European Union and elsewhere to consider legally differentiating between genetically edited organisms and genetically modified organisms.
  • Researchers continue to develop and improve gene-editing techniques, but wider commercial use will be contingent upon greater legislative approval.
  • Individual EU members, rather than the bloc as a whole, are likely to implement any new regulations on genetic editing techniques.

In terms of setting the guidelines for contemporary genetics, modern laws can sometimes seem as antiquated as the Magna Carta. In 2001, the European Union adopted key policies that govern the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture -- but that was more than a decade before the CRISPR technique, a more efficient, cheaper method of gene editing, rose to prominence. On Jan. 18, the advocate general to the European Court of Justice, Michal Bobek, issued a preliminary opinion regarding the interpretation and classification of new and evolving gene-editing techniques, such as CRISPR, as they relate to the European Union's stringent GMO regulations. The bloc is currently waiting for a court decision on the matter, but the possibility of legislative change has given hope to agricultural biotechnology companies and researchers that their techniques, which can increase crop yields and alter the specific properties of organisms, may soon obtain a...

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