Modern Biotechnologies in the Agri-food Sector

Modern Biotechnologies in the Agri-food Sector

The European Commission follows the continuous progress in modern biotechnologies, to consider how the EU can benefit from modern biotechnologies and innovation in the food and agricultural sector while maintaining high safety standards.

In 2017, the High Level Group of the Commission's Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) prepared an Explanatory Note on New techniques in Agricultural Biotechnology providing an overview of new techniques and explaining differences and similarities with conventional breeding and established techniques of genetic modification. The Note covers applications in animals, plants and microorganisms for food and feed production and also outlines the agricultural application of new techniques in the fields of synthetic biology and gene drive.

The Note is explanatory and is based on published literature reviews, scientific reports and existing published opinions

The Commission organised a high-level conference on "Modern Biotechnologies in Agriculture – Paving the way for responsible innovation" on 28 September 2017 in order to stimulate an informed and open debate among all stakeholders. More information is available on the conference website.

Previous EU initiatives on new breeding techniques and synthetic biology:

Upon a request of National Competent Authorities, the Commission set up in 2007 a New Techniques working group to assess whether a number of new breeding techniques could fall or not within the scope of the GMO legislation.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued two opinions in 2012 on cisgenesis/intragenesis and Zinc Finger Nuclease 3, in terms of the risks they might pose and the applicability of the existing EFSA guidance documents on GM plants for their risk assessment.

The European Commission Joint Research Center (JRC) published a study in 2011 on the potential of these technologies, their detection and monitoring.

The three Scientific Committees SCHER, SCENIHR and SCCS, upon request from the Commission, published in 2014 and 2015 three opinions on synthetic biology, focusing on its scope and definition, risk assessment methodologies and safety aspects and research priorities.