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Several Implications of EU Gene Editing Policy Especially on Coeliac Disease

Despite the support of competent authorities of many European countries, including the Swedish Board of Agriculture and European Food Safety Authority, and the positive advise of the former Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission and the European Academies Science Advisory Council about gene-edited (GE) products, the European Court of Justice has decided to regulate these GE products similar to genetically modified crops. In an article published in Frontiers in Plant Science, scientist Aurelie Jouanin from Wageningen University & Research in Netherlands and colleagues discuss several implications of this ruling, especially on the hampering of the development of wheat with hypoimmunogenic gluten for Coeliac Disease (CD) patients.

CD is an auto-immune reaction to gluten that happens in one to two percent of the population, and the only way to manage this disease is to have a gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet is almost impossible for CD patients as several products contain amounts of gluten to give them viscoelastic characteristics. As wheat has a complex genome and contains many genes related to gluten production, genome editing is the most applicable method to produce gluten-free wheat. However, the EU ruling on genome editing makes it impossible for this product to penetrate the market any time soon.

The authors also touched on the inconsistency in regulating mutation breeding products, which contains more modifications in a genome compared with gene edited products but are treated similar as products produced through conventional breeding. Furthermore, since other countries like the US is not regulating gene-edited products, they do not label these products. This means that EU will not be able to detect the entry of these products in these countries, thereby disrupting the world trade system. Other regulatory tests are also not applicable in gene-editing product, such as the detection of the transgene, which GE products do not have. Lastly, the authors recommend the reconsideration of the EU ruling on GE products.

Source: ISAAA