The European Parliament’s environment committee has adopted its position on the European Commission proposal on new genomic techniques (NGT), agreeing to have two different categories and two sets of rules for NGT plants.

The vote was carried by 47 votes to 31, with four abstentions.

Gene-edited plants considered equivalent to conventional ones - called NGT 1 plants - would be exempted from the requirements of the genetically modified organism (GMO) legislation, whereas for the second category of plants - NGT 2 plants - this legislation adapts the GMO framework to these plants, as they have more complex modifications.

MEPs also agree that all NGT plants should remain prohibited in organic production, as their compatibility requires further consideration.

What are NGT 1 plants?

For NGT 1 plants, MEPs amended the proposed rules on the size and number of modifications needed for a gene-edited plant to be considered equivalent to conventional plants.

MEPs also want NGT seeds to be labelled accordingly and to set up a public online list of all NGT 1 plants.

While there would be no mandatory labelling at consumer level for NGT 1 plants, MEPs want the Commission to report on how consumers and producers’ perception of the new techniques is evolving, seven years after entry into force.

What are NGT 2 plants

For NGT 2 plants, MEPs agreed to maintain GMO legislation requirements, including mandatory labelling of products.

To incentivise their uptake, MEPs also agreed to an accelerated procedure for risk assessment, taking into account their potential to contribute to a more sustainable agri-food system, but underline that the so-called precautionary principle must be respected.

Ban on patents

MEPs also amended the proposal to introduce a full ban on patents for all NGT plants, plant material, parts thereof, genetic information and process features they contain, to avoid legal uncertainties, increased costs and new dependencies for farmers and breeders.

MEPs also requested a report by June 2025 on the impact of patents on breeders' and farmers' access to varied plant reproductive material, as well as a legislative proposal to update EU rules on intellectual property rights accordingly.

After the vote on Wednesday, rapporteur MEP Jessica Polfjärd said: “This proposal is critical for strengthening Europe's food safety in a sustainable manner.

“We finally have a chance to implement rules that embrace innovation and I look forward to concluding negotiations in the Parliament and with the Council as soon as possible.”

The full European Parliament is scheduled to adopt its mandate during the February plenary session, after which it will be ready to start negotiations with EU member states on the rules.

What are NGTs?

NGTs are a variety of techniques that alter the genetic material of an organism, such as a plant.

Currently, all plants obtained by NGTs are subject to the same rules as GMOs, which are among the strictest in the world.

NGTs could help to make our food system more sustainable and resilient by developing improved plant varieties that are climate resilient, pest resistant, give higher yields or that require fewer fertilisers and pesticides.

Several NGT products are already or in the process of becoming available on the market outside the EU. For example, there are bananas in the Philippines that do not go brown, with the potential to reduce food waste and CO2 emissions.

The European Food Safety Authority has evaluated potential safety issues of NGTs.

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