ALLEA and the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (KVAB) are jointly organising a symposium on Genome Editing for Crop Improvement, which will take place on 7 and 8 November 2019 at the Academy Palace, Brussels.

Genome editing, in particular the use of CRISPR-Cas9 and other site-directed mutagenesis methods, is a new technology that very precisely modifies the genes of organisms. In July 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled that organisms obtained by genome editing techniques are subject to the strict conditions of the EU GMO legislation. This view has been widely challenged by scientists. The types of modifications generated by genome editing are much more precise than those derived from chemical and radiation mutagenesis, two techniques that are widely used in classical breeding and are exempt from the GMO legislation. Therefore, scientists consider genome edited crops that do not contain foreign DNA to be at least as safe as those derived from classical breeding. Furthermore, the ECJ ruling is in sharp contrast to legislation in many other countries that exempt genome edited crops from their respective GMO legislations.

The ALLEA-KVAB symposium will assess the impact of the decision of the ECJ on present research and developments in genome editing in plant breeding. In doing so, the symposium aims at providing an overview of the scientific evidence with respect to safety of genome edited crops and the possible impact of the technology for providing solutions to current and future problems in agriculture.

As such, the symposium will address the economic dimension of the ECJ ruling and its potential impact on the international trade of food and feed. In addition, it will discuss issues related to the detection of the use of genome editing techniques for crop improvement. It will also be examined whether mechanisms are in place, which guarantee the safety of novel crop traits, irrespective of the way they are produced. Finally, the symposium will address the application and impact of intellectual property rights on genome editing techniques and genome edited plants.

The programme is still being finalised, however you can view the tentative programme outline here.

Registration will officially open in the summer, but expressions of interest are encouraged. Please contact [email protected] to do so.