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16.06.2021 |

What is a ‘conventional GMO’?

EU Commission embraces new industry-led terminology

16 June 2021 / Testbiotech is today publishing a backgrounder showing how the EU Commission is trying to establish new official terminology which is set to cause ‘fundamental confusion’ in regulation. Experts with close affiliations to the biotech industry were the first to introduce the new term ‘conventional GMO’ to imply that the methods used in genetic engineering would have no inherent generic risks. This term was then embraced in an EU Commission report without any explanation or justification. A possible consequence could be wide ranging deregulation of genetically engineered organisms ‘through the backdoor’.

The new ‘industry-friendly’ term is used in a Commission report on new genomic techniques (New GE), published in April 2021. The term ‘conventional GMO’ appears throughout the text as well as in the glossary, and is used to mean ‘transgenic’. This gives the impression that genetic engineering is as safe as conventional breeding.

This new terminology is in clear contradiction to a European Court of Justice ruling and EU GMO regulation: the well-established legal meaning of ‘conventional’ lies in the application of traditional breeding methods based on the usage of genetic diversity and natural biological mechanisms. The resulting characteristics can also occur naturally and are considered to be safe. Conversely, genetic engineering techniques are associated with specific inherent risks and can result in genetic changes unlikely to occur in nature.

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