In June this year, the European Commission has brought forward two proposals, the proposal to deregulate New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) and the proposal to reform the seed marketing legislation.
Deregulation of New Genomic Techniques
For the proposal on deregulating NGTs, the European organic movement re-affirms that organic production should remain free from GMOs including from New Genomic Techniques (NGTs). As the European Commission’s proposal reflects, the use of gene editing technologies is not aligned with the principles of organic agriculture. Using NGTs in food production can lead to unintended effects, has potential risks, and conflicts with the precautionary principle.
Guaranteeing the freedom of choice and the right of organic operators to produce without NGTs can only be effective if it is accompanied by the legal and technical means. These must be embedded in the NGT regulation, rather than in the EU Organic Regulation (2018/848) as some proponents of NGT deregulation argue.
The organic movement is against reopening the EU Organic Regulation as this would open the door to undesired changes of other aspects of the long-negotiated regulation. Furthermore, it would also prevent much-needed legal clarity and prevent establishing essential safeguards of GM-free production. “The Commission’s proposal to deregulate New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) does not support an evidence-based and systematic approach to agriculture and innovation. It is a distraction from the agroecological solutions needed to move agriculture towards sustainability,” according to Eric Gall, IFOAM Organics Europe deputy director.
Reform of the seed marketing legislation
The European Commission’s proposal on the reform of the seed marketing legislation is to harmonize and merge the various directives on seed production into one regulation. LiveSeeding project partners are working intensely on organic breeding and organic variety testing. On the basis of their scientific and market experience, LiveSeeding Consortium members welcome the draft seed legislation because
- It provides testing of organic varieties under organic conditions in all Member States as well as room for flexibility for organic varieties registration;
- it sets a broader definition of new and traditional conservation varieties, which will allow more genetic diversity on farms;
- it allows in-kind exchange of seeds among farmers and;
- it allows the commercialisation of heterogeneous material by simple notification.
Yet, the LiveSeeding Consortium is concerned about the fact that the introduction of vegetable and fruit VSCU (value for sustainable cultivation and use) testing could restrict and slow down market access of organic seeds. Under current legislation, VCU testing is compulsory only for arable crops. The current draft proposal would extend these additional tests to fruits and vegetables. This proposal could lead to increased expenses, longer wait times for seed registration and slower adoption of organic seeds, which would hinder the growth of the organic industry. Moreover, the suggested changes to the EU Organic Regulation (2018/848) regarding seed marketing are not desirable.