Is it responsible to keep up with legislation from seventeen years ago in such an evolving world with such evolving techniques?
On the 25th of July, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that promising targeted gene-editing techniques will be subject to the existing, tough GM laws dating from 2001. Therefore, the financial and procedural risk for breeding companies and research institutions to use techniques like CRISPR in their commercial varieties will be higher and probably slow down innovations on this topic.
And while Europe is only a small part of the world, it is one of the major players in worldwide innovations and research in agriculture, including breeding. The promising techniques we are talking about can be an effective stairway for great contributions in terms of food security and global health.
As Bill Gates stated: ‘Over the next decade, gene editing could help humanity overcome some of the biggest and most persistent challenges in global health and development. (…) Used responsibly, gene editing holds the potential to save millions of lives and empower millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty. It would be a tragedy to pass up the opportunity.’
In the current situation, this opportunity cannot be fully utilized in the EU. That raises the following question: is it responsible to keep up with legislation from seventeen years ago in such an evolving world with such evolving techniques?
Of course, we have to be careful and protective and sometimes we cannot foresee all consequences. But at the same time, we all together have the responsibility to contribute to a better world and care for our population. Part of this contribution is decent research, what should not be limited by old legislation.
For more information on realized and potential innovations with CRISPR, check the essay ‘Gene Editing for Good’ by Bill Gates.