The European Parliament is ready to enter into trilogues on a proposed regulation aimed at allowing farmers to have access to crop varieties bred using gene editing - referred to in the proposals as new genomic techniques - after agreeing its position during Wednesday’s voting.

MEPs will call in these trilogue negotiations for varieties derived using new genomic techniques to be banned in organic production for the time being and to keep labelling of all gene editing plants mandatory across the EU.

A key aspect of MEPs’ position will be to ensure that any plants, plant material or genetic information derived from gene editing will remain free from patents.

They argued that refusing patents for these varieties will “avoid legal uncertainties, increased costs and new dependencies for farmers and breeders” who use them.

Draft text

Their approval of a draft text was voted for on the basis that plant varieties obtained using gene editing will be sorted into two categories which would receive different levels of regulation.

The Parliament wants the first category to contain only plants which are “considered equivalent to conventional ones” and are exempted from GMO rules, while the second category would consist of any other plants bred using new genomic techniques, which will face stricter requirements.

Currently, all gene-edited plants are subject to the EU’s GMO rules, which the Parliament referred to as “among the strictest in the world”.

MEPs are also to push for the European Commission to report on farmer and consumer perception of the new breeding techniques seven years after the regulation is passed.

Accelerated approval procedure

To ensure uptake, an accelerated approval procedure is to be developed for varieties falling into the second, more regulated category - although the precautionary principle is to be upheld when assessing potential risks.

The European Commission proposed the regulation on new genomic techniques last year to relax existing plant breeding rules to allow for food security, higher yield, climate resilience and lower pesticide dependency.

Member states have not yet outlined the position they will take on the proposal, with trilogues unable to kick off until they do.