Much ado about nothing, really!

September 8, 2020

Plant breeding innovation

Latest Greenpeace-sponsored study unable to shed new light on identification of origin of genetic change through different mutagenesis breeding methods.

Contrary to the sales pitch accompanying the media launch of the recent Greenpeace-sponsored study on detectability of specific breeding methods by seed testing, the content of the study itself actually doesn’t hold the promise.

All the “new” Greenpeace study shows is that known point mutations, as e.g. in some Cibus oilseed rape varieties, can be detected by quantitative PCR methods. This fact is neither new nor has there ever been any scientific doubt about it. Contrary to the claim of Greenpeace, the study and the method presented therein cannot and do not clarify whether the Cibus mutation in the AHAS1C gene is a random somaclonal variation (as it is stated in the citations given in the publication), or whether it is a mutation originating from the genome editing (ODM) technique. It is therefore still not possible to determine how the point mutation was generated and, consequently, if the resulting plant is considered a regulated GMO in the European Union.

Therefore, the Greenpeace-sponsored study does not provide any ”solution” to the differentiation of genome edited mutagenesis products in view of their regulatory status worldwide. While classical transgenics are regulated similarly as GMOs in all countries, genome edited mutagenesis products are not regulated as GMOs in a growing number of countries (e.g. most South American Countries, the US, Australia, Japan). This means that if respective products are put on the market in those countries, neither a validated detection method nor information about the genetic change might be available.

With that, the Greenpeace study does not add anything new to the main observations from the JRC ENGL report (Detection of food and feed plant products obtained by new mutagenesis techniques, European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL), Report endorsed by the ENGL Steering Committee, Publication date: 26 March 2019)

Against this background, Euroseeds sees its position confirmed that plants with genetic alterations, which could also be the result of conventional breeding methods or natural processes should not be regulated as GMOs.

In addition, CIBUS, the developer of the respective varieties analysed in the publication, confirmed towards Euroseeds that the varieties were in fact developed from spontaneous somaclonal variation. With this the publication provides a method to detect a single point mutation originating from a non-gm mutagenesis method.

So, all the Greenpeace-sponsored publication really provides is a method to detect a single point mutation originating from a non-GM mutagenesis method. In the end, it is much ado about nothing, really.