Shockwaves have continued to reverberate following the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to place gene-edited plants within the remit of European rules for regulating GMOs. The CJEU ignored the Advocate General's recommendation to exempt gene-edited crops from oversight and instead chose to take a much more literal interpretation of the relevant law (see p. 799). As a result, the regulatory bar for gene-edited crops containing precise mutations is now higher than it is for radiation- and chemical-blitzed plants that contain thousands of random mutations. The question now is whether European lawmakers will act to correct their nonsensical rules.
Back in the 1980s, the European Union (EU) decided to regulate the process of making GMOs, as well as regulating the products themselves. This was the first indication that European regulations were beginning to gather mass. Directive 90/220/EEC was passed in 1990; another two directives were passed over the next 10 years (together with six commission decisions); and 2001 saw the release of directive 2001/18/EC, which became the text of reference. Eleven more amendments have been passed subsequently, each one propelling GMOs into an increasingly massive anomaly of paper work. Now the latest CJEU decision threatens to suck gene-edited plants completely over the regulatory event horizon.
EU regulation for GMOs was borne out of political expediency. In the 1980s, risks were anticipated and caution was warranted: companies built facilities downwind of...