The Legal GMO Concept. Reassessment of the GMO Definition in the Light of New Breeding Techniques (NBTs)
European Institute for Food Law Working Paper Series 2017/03
31 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2017 Last revised: 5 Feb 2018
Date Written: December 29, 2017
What are GMOs in a legal sense? According to the EU definition a GMO is an organism ‘in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination’. Does this definition refer to the organism, to the method by which it has been obtained or to both? This question has become acute with the emergence of New Breeding Techniques (NBTs) in particular when non-traditional methods have been used to achieve results that also could occur naturally. Are such products that could have been obtained by traditional breeding techniques GMOs? The French Conseil d’état has asked a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). Unfortunately, the Conseil d’état failed to clearly phrase the question that needs to be answered. The authors express the hope that the CJEU nevertheless will be able to provide a meaningful answer. They provide an introduction to NBTs and argue in favour of a product based interpretation.
Keywords: GMO, Genetically Modified Organism, NBT, New Breeding Technique, Food Law
JEL Classification: K20, K23, K30, K32, Q18
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