BERLIN The European Union should apply strict approval standards to new generations of gene-edited crops similar to those for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Germany's junior environment minister said on Tuesday.
Gene-editing technology such as CRISPR/Cas9 allows scientists to edit genes by using biological "scissors" which can find and replace selected stretches of DNA.
Disease-resistant pigs and field crops are being developed but there have been calls for the new techniques to be subjected to the strict approval system for GMO plants.
The German government, traditionally skeptical of GMOs and other biotech food, is still formulating its policy toward the new generation of gene-edited agricultural products.
"It is important that GMO approval criteria should be applied here," junior environment minister Jochen Flasbarth told Reuters.
This is because the changes in the plants can have a significant impact and the possibly to turn back changes may not be available without a strict approval process, he said.
The EU is also still considering whether to class gene-edited plants as genetically modified. Supporters of the new technology maintain this is unneeded as no extra genes are added to the crops.
There is concern that without a strict approval process, plants with environmentally-dangerous properties could be allowed to spread without hindrance, hitting conventional farmers, Flasbarth said.
The EU should put the new concept under the GMO approval system, he said.
Germany announced in 2015 that it is banning cultivation of crops with GMOs under new EU rules allowing member states to opt out of their cultivation.
A draft law banning GMO crops was approved by Germany's cabinet on Nov. 2.
(Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann, writing by Michael Hogan, editing by David Evans)