EU court decision on plant breeding techniques ‘normally’ before summer break

The European Commission is expecting the outcome of this Court judgment will bring more clarity in the GM definition. It will then decide accordingly upon the future of these techniques in Europe but insists it's a "law interpretation". [Shutterstock]

This article is part of our special report Do new plant breeding techniques have a future in Europe?.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) should “normally” decide on the future of the so-called new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs) before the summer break in July. However, no date has yet been set, a source close to the issue told EURACTIV.com.

“Considering that the Advocate’s General opinion was in January, the Court’s decision on the case should be in July, before the summer break,” the source said, emphasising though that no date has been mentioned so far.

If there is no judgement in July, the ECJ will publish it in September, the source added.

The term NPBTs describes a number of scientific methods for the genetic engineering of plants to enhance traits like drought tolerance and pest resistance.

Critics suggest that these techniques should fall under the GM legislation and accuse the agri-food industry of attempting to bring “hidden” GMOs to Europe from the back door.

On the other hand, backers of these techniques argue that plants obtained through these techniques could also be the product of conventional cross-breeding techniques that mimic natural processes and hence cannot be considered GMOs.

Advocate General Michal Bobek issued his opinion last January, saying that organisms obtained by mutagenesis – the case which is under examination – are, in principle, exempt from the obligations in the GMO directive.

His opinion is not binding but it rarely differs from the Court’s final judgment.

The European Commission expects the outcome of this Court judgment will bring more clarity in the GM definition. It will then decide accordingly upon the future of these techniques in Europe but insists it’s a “law interpretation”.

In an interview with EURACTIV, Jim Collins, the chief operating officer of Corteva Agriscience, the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, said that growers would improve water utilisation or even crops with NPBT – something they were not able to do before.

Referring to Europe in particular, he cited wheat as an example of a crop whose productivity we have not been able to improve.

“It’s hard for me to speculate about the exact outcome of the ECJ. At the end of the day, I do believe that we have some new plant breeding techniques that can dramatically improve the speed of things that we already do today,” he emphasised.

Corteva boss: ‘Mother Nature’ changes the game quickly and demands new agricultural tools

“Mother Nature” is changing quickly and this requires the adoption of technology-driven solutions that will help both growers and consumers, Jim Collins, the chief operating officer of Corteva Agriscience, the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, told EURACTIV.

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