According to a legislative proposal by the EU Commission, numerous genetically modified foods could in future end up on the plates of citizens without being labeled. This emerges from a previously unpublished draft regulation by the Commission, which is available to the German Press Agency in Brussels.

Accordingly, the authority wants to propose exempting certain genetically modified plants from the strict EU genetic engineering rules. The project is expected to be officially presented in July.

Exceptions for Crispr/Cas

In concrete terms, the planned rules mean that methods such as Crispr/Cas genetic scissors are not subject to EU genetic engineering rules if the varieties created as a result could also have been created by methods such as crossing or selection. According to the plans, such breeds would fall under the so-called category 1 of plants bred by new techniques (NGT). According to the project, the strict genetic engineering rules will continue to apply to organic farming.

Article 8 of the draft states: Member States shall not impose requirements prohibiting or restricting the deliberate release or placing on the market of NGT type 1 plants. The Greens member of the Bundestag Karl Bär sees this as a “frontal attack” on the model of European agriculture.

“Equivalent to conventionally grown plants”

“Plants with up to 20 genetic modifications should be considered equivalent to conventionally bred plants,” said the trained agricultural economist about the designs that have become known. These include changes that go far beyond the potential of classic breeds. Food from these plants would end up on consumers’ plates without being labelled. “The proposal would be the end of organic farming,” he fears. This would have to protect itself with increasing effort from contamination, for example from seeds blown by the wind.

The regulation is intended to ban member states from taking measures to protect organic farming, sensitive areas or regions free of genetic engineering. “The European Commission seems to have caved in completely to the genetic engineering companies,” criticized Bär.

How does the traffic light coalition behave?

It is unclear whether the federal government, in which the Greens are also involved, is opposed to the project. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, led by the Greens, had in the past expressed skepticism about relaxing the rules on genetic engineering, but the Federal Ministry of Research led by the FDP signaled fundamental support. Other FDP politicians such as the parliamentary manager of the FDP parliamentary group, Johannes Vogel, and parliamentary group leader Carina Konrad are also open to new genetic engineering processes.

They point to possible advantages of the new genetic engineering methods, which could lead to less use of pesticides and more resistant plants. Vogel emphasized in a position paper: “We must finally stop demonizing green genetic engineering and presenting it as unnatural. We must welcome progress and use it to make our future better.”