Debate: The future regulation of GMOs


On December 5, the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board invited to a public debate on how we should regulate the future’s GMOs. The Board presented 3 different models on how this can be done, and also addressed other questions about what the law should include; labeling, traceability, social utility, sustainability and ethics.

GenØk believes that it is very important to have a public dialogue about the regulation of future GMOs, such as organisms produced through gene editing and synthetic biology. It is important to have clear guidelines in order to promote innovation and safe use of biotechnology. We are therefore very pleased that the Biotechnology Advisory Board has taken this initiative.

GenØk agrees with the majority of the members in the Biotechnology Advisory Board regarding the importance of retaining the Gene Technology Act, as it requires societal benefits, sustainability and ethics. However, GenØk disagrees with the majority of the Board, which argues that the new biotechnological applications should not be subject to risk assessments and only need to have an obligation to report.

Further comments to the debate:

  • Regulation does not prevent innovation, but defines limits for desired and safe development.
  • Gene edited organisms are GMOs according to today’s definitions and should therefore be regulated under the Gene Technology Act.
  • Gene editing is an emerging technology with many exciting possibilities, but we still need more knowledge about mechanisms, unintended effects and contributions to sustainability and societal benefits.
  • Small changes in genes can lead to major changes in the organisms. Risks associated with such changes should be determined through case-by-case risk assessments, and not through pre-based assumptions.
  • Different types of modifications might have to submit differentiated information for risk assessments
  • Labeling and traceability requirements should apply to all GMOs, including gene edited organisms.
  • Given the complexity of these issues and the impact on society, a public committee that reflects different perspectives and knowledge should be appointed to investigate the process forward and look into the practical details.