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19.01.2018 |

European court suggests relaxed gene-editing rules

Judicial opinion says restrictive regulations may not apply to plants and animals bred using CRISPR technique.

Crops and drugs created using powerful gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR–Cas9 might not need to be regulated by the strict European Union rules that govern genetically modified organisms (GMOs), according to a formal opinion from an advocate general in the European Court of Justice.

European scientists have cautiously welcomed the carefully worded document, published on 18 January. They would like to use precise gene editing, which allows tiny changes to be made to a genome in a simple and highly controlled manner, to create hardier plant species or to improve medical treatments. But legal uncertainty about existing rules has hindered progress in Europe, say researchers.

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Bobek’s text says that there is nothing in the directive to stop member states from making their own rules for gene editing, raising the possibility of a patchwork of different rules applying in different member states, which critics say undermines the single market.

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