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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

The evolving EU regulatory framework for precision breeding

Eriksson, Dennis


Plant breeding has always relied on progress in various scientific disciplines to generate and enable access to genetic variation. Until the 1970s, available techniques generated mostly random genetic alterations that were subject to a selection procedure in the plant material. Recombinant nucleic acid technology, however, started a new era of targeted genetic alterations, or precision breeding, enabling a much more targeted approach to trait management. More recently, developments in genome editing are now providing yet more control by enabling alterations at exact locations in the genome. The potential of recombinant nucleic acid technology fueled discussions about potentially new associated risks and, starting in the late 1980s, biosafety legislation for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has developed in the European Union. However, the last decade has witnessed a lot of discussions as to whether or not genome editing and other precision breeding techniques should be encompassed by the EU GMO legislation. A recent ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union indicated that directed mutagenesis techniques should be subject to the provisions of the GMO Directive, essentially putting many precision breeding techniques in the same regulatory basket. This review outlines the evolving EU regulatory framework for GMOs and discusses some potential routes that the EU may take for the regulation of precision breeding.


biosafety legislation; genetic alterations; GMO; plant breeding; EU legislation

Published in

TAG Theoretical and Applied Genetics
2019, volume: 132, number: 3, pages: 569-573

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Breeding

UKÄ Subject classification

Genetics and Breeding
Law (excluding Law and Society)

Publication Identifiers


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