The EU court ruling on mutagenesis – what is it all about?

On 25 July this year, it seemed like a tremor went through the entire plant science community and the plant breeding industry in the EU. The long-awaited ruling on mutagenesis (case C-528/16) from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was announced, and it was not quite what we expected. Whereas the Advocate General had earlier published a pragmatic and scientifically well-founded interpretation, the CJEU ruling followed a more literal and process-based interpretation indicating that the products of directed mutagenesis should be regulated as GMO. It is said that the ruling casts new breeding techniques into a regulatory limbo, and recently the Vice-Chancellors of six of the largest universities in Sweden wrote that the CJEU ruling threatens necessary plant research. Seed companies in the Netherlands, the world´s largest seed exporter, is also concerned that the ruling can harm seed exports from the EU.  Other companies have announced that they will continue to invest in precision breeding – but not for the EU market. With a slightly more forward-looking attitude however, it is also clear that the CJEU ruling emphasizes that the EU GMO legislation is out-of-date and there is a growing momentum for regulatory change in the EU.