The European Court of Justice is expected to decide soon about the future of the so-called new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs) in Europe.
The term describes a number of scientific methods for the genetic engineering of plants to enhance traits like drought tolerance and pest resistance.
At issue is whether these techniques should be classed as GMOs and, therefore, fall under the strict GMO approval process.
The agri-food industry and farmers say the EU should open the door to these techniques and help agriculture face challenges like climate change and rising food demand.
On the other hand, environmentalists insist that these techniques are harmful to health and environment and accuse the big agri-food multinationals of trying to bring these “hidden GMOs” in Europe.
The EU should embrace the new plant breeding techniques as the best chance to supply enough food for the EU's population, according to mainstream EU farmers. But organic farmers oppose this and a lot may depend on a European court ruling due before the summer.
Labelling products that result from the so-called new plant breeding techniques would provide little new information and would therefore make no sense for consumers, Garlich von Essen, secretary-general of the European Seeds Association (ESA), told EURACTIV.com.
The new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs) are a major opportunity to move toward sustainable agriculture and simultaneously ensure food quality for EU consumers, MEP Paolo De Castro told EURACTIV.com.
The future of new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs) at the EU level lies in the European Court of Justice’s interpretation of existing law, Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis told EURACTIV.com, adding that the executive will act accordingly at the political level.