Detection of food and feed plant products obtained by new mutagenesis techniques (new genetic engineering techniques)

In July 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that products resulting from new genetic engineering technologies like CRISPR/Cas produce GMOs and should be regulated under the GMO legislation. While this decision was a positive step, a major remaining question is how to detect products resulting from these new technologies. Bullet-proof detection methods are especially relevant for the organic supply chain to prevent contamination of organic products and to maintain the capacity of organic farmers to remain GM-free.

To address this issue, the European Commission mandated the European Union Reference Laboratory for GM food and feed (EURL-GMFF) to assess methods to detect products obtained by new mutagenesis techniques. The final report on the ‘detection of food and feed plant products obtained by new mutagenesis techniques’ concludes that current methods are not accurate enough yet to reliably detect, identify and quantify all types of GMOs. This has implications for the degree to which the GMO legislation can be enforced. Conventional GMOs can be detected by a technology called ‘real-time PCR’. To identify certain genome-edited plants a significant level of method optimisation and experience is necessary. Yet, this is currently not available. This is a problem because without adequate technology to detect all GMOs, the European regulation on the release of GMOs into the environment and the food chain cannot be properly enforced.

IFOAM EU asked the Commission to start research projects that develop detection methods and strategies for GMOs obtained through new genetic engineering techniques. No new GMOs should enter the market without a detection method available to find it.

For more information about IFOAM EUs position on all techniques of genetic modification, consult our new GMO leaflet that is part of the 'keep GMOs out of organic’ project and read our position paper on new genetic engineering techniques.


This event is co-financed by the European Union, under the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). The sole responsibility for this communication lies with IFOAM EU. The EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

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