Despite the support of competent authorities of many European countries,
including the Swedish Board of Agriculture and European Food Safety
Authority, and the positive advise of the former Chief Scientific Advisor to
the President of the European Commission and the European Academies Science
Advisory Council about gene-edited (GE) products, the European Court of
Justice has decided to regulate these GE products similar to genetically
modified crops. In an article published in Frontiers in Plant Science,
scientist Aurelie Jouanin from Wageningen University & Research in
Netherlands and colleagues discuss several implications of this ruling,
especially on the hampering of the development of wheat with hypoimmunogenic
gluten for Coeliac Disease (CD) patients.
CD is an auto-immune reaction to gluten that happens in one to two percent
of the population, and the only way to manage this disease is to have a
gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet is almost impossible for CD patients as
several products contain amounts of gluten to give them viscoelastic
characteristics. As wheat has a complex genome and contains many genes
related to gluten production, genome editing is the most applicable method
to produce gluten-free wheat. However, the EU ruling on genome editing makes
it impossible for this product to penetrate the market any time soon.
The authors also touched on the inconsistency in regulating mutation
breeding products, which contains more modifications in a genome compared
with gene edited products but are treated similar as products produced
through conventional breeding. Furthermore, since other countries like the
US is not regulating gene-edited products, they do not label these products.
This means that EU will not be able to detect the entry of these products in
these countries, thereby disrupting the world trade system. Other regulatory
tests are also not applicable in gene-editing product, such as the detection
of the transgene, which GE products do not have. Lastly, the authors
recommend the reconsideration of the EU ruling on GE products.