It is expected to be submitted by the European Commission in June New Gene Editing Technologies (NGT)ie his proposal to regulate the procedure for breeding new plants. A revision of the current directive is a prerequisite for the EU to be able to take advantage of the scientific and economic advantages of NGT, as well as the potential inherent in new gene procedures.
The division, and therefore the intensity of the expected debate, is clearly indicated by the fact that the consultations at the ministerial level were recently held Germany, Hungary and Cyprus have made it clear to Brussels that they do not support regulations that do not guarantee transparency in the use of genetic technologies, but the world has not yet found a solution to this.
Europe is looking the other way if genetic modification can be natural
It has become widely known, but it causes fear in many Genetically modified plantsthat is, GMOs and new gene-editing technologies, such as NGTs, are currently regulated by the same binding directive in the European Union.
One thing the two procedures have in common is that they alter plant characteristics by interfering with the gene pool.
The biggest difference between GMOs and NGTs is whether they initiate an artificial or natural alteration or mutation.
It is strictly prohibited in many countries, including Hungary Genetically modified plants During its creation, the genes of an alien organism are introduced into the parent plant. Thus, these plants can have properties that cannot occur in nature and can only be created through human intervention.
NGT Factories On the other hand, it does not contain foreign genes, but during the process of gene editing, a specific section of the DNA of the organism is altered and corrected. New characteristics can also be created during natural reproduction, so proponents of the technology see the future of plant breeding in gene editing for agricultural purposes.
The European Union directives on GMOs are strict. During the authorization procedure, the products of manufacturers must meet serious requirements, moreover, member states can prohibit the cultivation of authorized GMOs under their own authority. Attention must be drawn to products containing genetically modified ingredients, and the directive applies strict labeling rules.
This is why the scientists who support the NGT and the economic and political actors who see a great future in it are using all their influence to ensure that the European Commission draws up new rules. Opponents argue that NGTs and GMOs are just their newer, “friendlier” versions.
Brussels’ trump card is the name: it doesn’t matter if it’s GMO or “lightweight”
Brussels has already discussed the implementation of NGTs with ministers of member states and many details have been leaked about possible directions for the special regulation.
The commission will learn from the recklessness of the United States, where new unenforceable and uncontrollable NGT regulations create an unpredictable situation to this day, while the rules on GMOs are also lax.
In order to avoid this, the European Commission will solve the deregulation of NGTs by rewriting the GMO Directive:
Gene-editing procedures that use only those modifications that could in principle also occur in nature would be given a new name. Methods under the name of precision biotechnology may be subject to looser rules than synthetic GMOs.
Berlin and Budapest will also be watched under the microscope
Ministers of member states at the committee meeting held recently In general, they objected to the fact that the proposed one is not clear on many points, the reason being, among others, that the technology is so new, and that the infrastructure needed for gene editing is no longer only available in well-equipped settings. Laboratories and research centersbut practically anyone can access it for pennies, so the technology has also attracted interest from companies.
Hungary has already spoken cautiously about NGTs, and Germany has Just make it clearthat without strict guarantees of transparency, he does not support any proposal to relax genetic modification rules.
Green party politicians in the German government’s coalition strongly oppose the spread of genetic technologies. They argue that
People have a fundamental right to freely decide whether they want to consume GMO products. However, it is almost impossible to control the application of the technology.
The reason for this is that it is not obvious, it is affordable, and it can also be deployed without a huge scientific infrastructure. How the rules that limit the use of technology and were created to control it will work in practice.
Germany, Hungary and Cyprus highlighted difficulties with transparency and made it clear to Brussels that as long as their proposal did not contain strong guarantees for these, there was no question of substantively changing the current directive, which is outdated.
People don’t ask about new GMOs yet
Since NGT is also genetically modified, it means an uncertain and uncontrollable process for most people, and distrust of the procedure is reinforced by the fact that a narrow group can see the processes.
Therefore, we can find a lot of arguments to prohibit the action:
- Unexpected consequences: The procedure was practically invented a few years ago and now the whole world is giving it a try. Moreover, in many cases, genetic modification does not bring results, and its cause is still unknown to scientists. No one can see the long-term consequences, either in environmental or consumption terms. According to critics, since genetically modified plants can also be detected through testing, it is feared that NGT plants may also pose a risk to DNA.
- Food in the hands of new genetic superpowers: The fears are unfounded. One of the novelties of NGT is the wide availability of the technology, which means that gene editing can be performed with tools that are much smaller and incomparably cheaper than conventional laboratory equipment. Since the majority of states still do not properly regulate NGT experiments, and moreover, governments do not exercise oversight, so developments and innovation have fallen into the hands of large corporations.
- It’s dark, What happens in basements and laboratories: The purpose of large-scale development and research of companies often depends on their operating principle, that is, it operates to achieve the highest possible profit and lowest possible cost. On the other hand, country research generally examines the social and economic benefits. Thus, perhaps the most important innovation in agriculture will still not support food security, but, like GMOs, will end up where it is not needed, and its spread will be controlled by corporate lobbying and corruption, and at the same time, technology remains inaccessible. in areas affected by hunger.
- Moral objectionsContinuing lack of control: The majority of experiments are currently being conducted on animals, which raises serious concerns. It is also a matter of concern that there is no method in the world today that can fully control the use of widely available technology. Moreover, gene editing is a microscopic process and requires unique knowledge, which leads to an enormous amount of uncertainty. It is impossible to determine who actually does scientific work and whose gene-editing interests serve it, and it is not clear whether these activities can be effectively controlled at all.
We show the most important differences
GMO, NGT, and conventional plant breeding are different practices to achieve this goal, but the difference can be critical to gaining social support.
- the Genetically modified varieties Among them is maize, which has been endowed with the genes of another organism during genetic modification, giving the plant a new characteristic. The goal was to prevent pests from destroying crops, so genetically modified corn was manufactured capable of producing a substance that either inhibits or kills pests. Corn cannot acquire such new properties through traditional methods or under natural conditions.
- the By making NGT The same defense capability could be created in maize by patching a selected gene section of the plant with a special tool, the so-called “gene scissors” with the new precision process that will win the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the CRISPR-CaS9 process. As a result of “repairing” or “cutting out” the appropriate gene section, the plant will in principle become resistant. The nutrient content can be increased with this process, and it can also be made resistant to harsh weather at a previously unimaginable speed.
- the traditional plant breeding During which specialists select the most pest-resistant corn, for example. Through the propagation of these, with natural changes occurring over months, years, and even decades, during the processes of propagation, the type of plant that meets the specified goal of plant breeding is established. In other words, the improved atom will be more resistant than its predecessors.
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