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The European Union took a step toward adapting its food production to the new ways of the world: The 27-nation bloc wants to embrace the latest gene techniques it hopes will help safely counter global challenges like climate change and shortages.
For decades, the EU was conservative in allowing the use of genetically modified organisms — which often brought up connotations of Frankenfood rather than improved crop production — while the United States and others quickly adopted the new bioengineered technologies.
However, the EU’s executive commission threw its weight behind so-called new genomic techniques, which seek to change organisms in a much less intrusive way than the GMOs of old, and to allow many to be sold without special labeling.
“In many ways, new genomic techniques can give you the same results as through conventional and natural selection, or through targeted crossbreeding, but with much more speed, precision and efficiency,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said.
The new techniques are intended to make plants better able to withstand drought while requiring fewer pesticides and to create products with better color and more consistency that are more attractive to consumers.
Unsurprisingly, large farming companies welcomed the EU’s plans and environmentalists mounted opposition. The proposal is only the start of a drawn-out process since member nations and the European Parliament must endorse the plans before they can become reality.
Environmentalists are fully alarmed again, fearing that the newest tools still pose too many dangers and must undergo much better testing.
“Whether it’s a toy or a face cream, any product on the market needs to be safety tested. Why would there be an exemption for GMOs that end up in our fields or on our plates,” said Eva Corral of Greenpeace. “Biotech companies have long considered these safety procedures an unnecessary bother and it’s disappointing to see the commission agree with them.”
If done right, the proposal will ensure European competitiveness, lower emissions and more food globally, European Parliament member Jessica Polfjärd said.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.