Hopes for a regulatory road for genetic engineering made easier in Europe's agricultural sector were dispelled by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In the closely followed case, the court declared that plants modified with new techniques for gene editing that exclude a transfer of genes between organisms (such as CRISPR) are to undergo the same long process of approval that is applied to traditional transgenic plants.
While many researchers had stressed that regulatory bodies should adopt a lighter approach to the evaluation of products created with new technologies, environmentalists and their allies have successfully justified their stance of that cases of this kind should be subject to the same EU rules that are applied to other genetically-modified organisms.
"We are happy with the decision by the CJEU", says Dana Perls, Senior Food and Agriculture Campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FOE) in Washington, D.C.,adding that the entirety of products created with the used of genetic engineering, including those produced with the use of gene-editing tools like CRISPR, should not only be subject to regulations and assessment procedures regarding their impact on health and the environment, but also duly labelled.
However, many researchers were displeased, justifying their stance with that the decision will adversely affect the cultivation of plants in Europe - and so in an exceptional way.What is more, plants modified with the use of CRISPR and transgenic plants constitute two entirely different groups, as the former one represents a case where genes are not transferred between two organisms.Still, the court ruled that gene-editing techniques are subject to the GMO directive on account of altering the genetic material of given organisms in ways that do not occur naturally.