The European Commission has again delayed a much-awaited legal analysis of whether new plant breeding techniques should be considered GMOs, euractiv.com has learned.
New breeding techniques (NBTs) focus on developing new seed traits within a given species through genetic engineering.
Initially, the Commission’s opinion was due by the end of 2015, but the procedure was postponed.
In January, a European Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV that the legal analysis would be completed by the first quarter of 2016.
A Commission source told EURACTIV that the process was still ongoing, and that no result was expected by the end of this month.
“The Commission is currently working on a legal analysis to give guidance on how to interpret the definition of GMOs in relation to organisms produced by new plant breeding techniques,” a Commission source told EURACTIV.
The same source added that both the outcome and the timeline “cannot be pre-empted for the time being”.
However, the European Court of Justice has the last say, as it has sole prerogative to provide a final and binding opinion on the interpretation of EU law.
In a joint position paper published this month, environmentalist NGOs stressed that the EU GMO law should be fully applied to the so-called ‘new plant breeding techniques’.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe, IFOAM EU and other campaigning organisations noted that the “new GMOs” presented a real risk to the environment and human health.
“Legal analysis shows that they are covered by EU GMO law. If they were to escape EU regulations, any potential negative effects on food, feed or environmental safety would go unchecked. European consumers, farmers and breeders would have no way to avoid GMOs,” the paper reads.
“The Commission should leave no doubt that all products of genetic engineering are subject to EU GMO law which requires rigorous risk assessment, detectability and labelling.”