(Photo: VCG / CGTN)
Plants and animals created by new techniques of genetic modification should be treated as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and follow European rules aimed at preventing damage to the environment and health, the EU's top court said on Wednesday.
"The organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs," the European Court of Justice said in a press release, referring to a newly developed technique that allows the development of seed varieties resistant to certain herbicides.
Unlike the best known GMOs, mutagenesis allows the genome of a living species to be altered without the need to insert foreign DNA. Environment groups have demanded the process be given the same treatment under European legislation.
The EU judges considered that since "mutagenicity techniques or methods modify the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally," they should be governed by the GMO directive.
But the court pointed out that organisms obtained by mutagenesis techniques, "conventionally used for several uses and whose safety has been proven for a long time" would be excluded from the legislation, a statement said.
The court decision came after a question from France's highest court, which has to rule on the actions brought by eight French farm associations, including the agricultural trade union Confederation Paysanne, against the French legislation on these bodies.
"We are delighted with this decision," said Guy Kastler, one of the founders of the Confederation Paysanne for whom "all products, including animals, obtained by techniques developed after 2001 (...) must be regulated as GMOs."
Greenpeace also welcomed the decision of the European Court of Justice, which it said confirmed the "warnings of scientists who argued that these genetic modifications could cause unintended DNA damage with unexpected consequences."
The French Association for Plant Biotechnologies (AFBV), a group of researchers, however called the decision "staggering," as it is up to "scientific groups to rule on scientific facts" and warned that it could lead to a "de facto ban" on new technologies in the EU.