The Spanish Federation of Scientific Societies (Cosce), which brings together 84 Spanish scientific societies and more than 40,000 researchers, has issued a report in which it urgently calls for the European revision of the current EU standards for plant improvement technologies, which are equivalent to CRISPR technology due to the huge Bureaucratic hurdles make GMOs nearly impossible to grow.
“It is crucial to review existing regulations in the light of scientific developments in recent decades. In their current state, these regulations impede the fundamental progress needed to maintain the competitiveness of the EU and Spain’s agriculture and livestock sectors,” the report states.
Scientists believe the legislation is outdated, and as the European Court of Justice acknowledged in a 2018 judgment, it urged a review of the provision. They explain that the technique is based on a protective system naturally possessed by bacteria and archaea, by which they integrate small fragments of the genomes of viruses that attack them into these microbes. When one of the stored viruses reappears, they are able to “cut” the viral DNA, preventing reinfection.
For example, CRISPR technology has allowed researchers to create mushrooms that take longer to turn black, apples that don’t rot when dropped to the ground, and tomatoes that help control high blood pressure. Since they were made using CRISPR technology, none of them were grown on European soil. However, these products can be imported from other countries, such as Japan, Argentina or the United States, and reach European supermarkets without any problems.
“Many of these varieties are indistinguishable from natural varieties, so Europe will not be able to control their importation, which puts the production sector at a distinct disadvantage compared to the production sector in the countries that approve these varieties,” Coase said.
Tools for tackling climate change
Cosce said the technology has been used to obtain plants with higher resistance to insects and pathogenic microorganisms in almost all extensive crops, which will lead to a significant reduction in pesticide use worldwide. “It also enables researchers to obtain varieties that can sustain production after exposure to salt water, extreme temperatures or drought conditions; therefore, varieties are more tolerant of climate change.”
“Our country’s agricultural production needs to adapt to these larger environmental demands in order to cope with climate change, especially that affecting the Mediterranean Sea. To achieve this, we must utilize all available resources, including state-of-the-art genetic improvement technologies,” they said.