Europe’s Highest Court Confirms: Products of New Genetic Engineering Techniques are GMOs

The Non-GMO Project applauds the European Court of Justice’s July 25, 2018 ruling on new genetic engineering techniques, which clarifies that products of techniques such as CRISPR-cas9, RNAi, and gene drives are to be considered GMOs under European law. This is a great victory for the 508 million European consumers who will benefit from the regulation and labeling of products made with genetic engineering. The decision aligns with the Non-GMO Project’s position, as products of these new techniques are already considered to be GMOs under the Non-GMO Project Standard and are not allowed in Non-GMO Project Verified products.

The ruling will ensure that products of new genetic engineering techniques will be subject to the European GMO Directive safety regulations that govern other GMOs in the EU. This means products of these new technologies are to undergo consumer safety evaluations and will be subject to labeling in accordance with existing labeling laws.

The Court’s declaration has broader implications outside of the EU, as biotech and seed industry lobby groups have been fighting against any regulations globally for products of new genetic engineering techniques. These companies have intentionally distanced themselves from the regulatory hurdles and the consumer and manufacturer rejection of GMOs by claiming that products of these new genetic engineering techniques are not actually GMOs. The European Court of Justice’s ruling clarified that because the potential risks associated with products of new techniques closely resemble the risks associated with transgenic GMOs, they should be regulated in the same way.

This ruling brings the European Union’s definition of genetic engineering into alignment with the Codex Alimentarius definition, which is used by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Non-GMO Project Standard.

In the Non-GMO Project’s recent comments to the USDA on the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, the organization urged the USDA to adopt the Codex definition and ensure that new GMOs will be subject to the same requirements as other genetically modified organisms. This request reflects the organization’s fundamental belief that all shoppers deserve to know if their food contains genetically engineered ingredients and that any GMO labeling must be inclusive of all GMOs, including products of new genetic engineering techniques.