Explanatory note on ‘New Techniques in Agricultural Biotechnology’


On April 28 the High Level Group of the Commission's Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) has published an independent Explanatory Note on ‘New Techniques in Agricultural Biotechnology’. Following the request of Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, the scientific advisers provide a detailed scientific description of the full spectrum of agricultural breeding techniques used in plants, animals and microorganisms. The document describes and compares the new techniques with conventional breeding techniques and with established techniques of genetic modification.

ESA sees the SAM explanatory note as an important contribution to the current scientific debate around the latest plant breeding methods, specifically as the SAM note clearly places these latest methods in the wider historical context of constantly evolving plant breeding innovations. It correctly highlights the precision and efficiency of these methods and the general indistinguishability of the resulting plants from others obtained by earlier methods or occurring naturally.

The SAM paper notably does not contain any detailed analysis of safety aspects. Still, it proposes to address such aspects on a “case by case” basis. ESA sees neither need nor legal basis for subjecting plants resulting from latest plant breeding methods to different or additional safety assessment requirements than identical plants obtained by natural mutagenesis or from well-established breeding methods using chemicals or other mutagens. Any different approach establishing additional safety measures for those plants would contradict the well established legal principle for products having a “history of safe use”.

Find more info on the European Commission website.