Foregone Benefits of Gene Editing in the European Union

A new report by the Breakthrough Institute and the Alliance for Science

Executive summary

The bioeconomy revolution is taking off around the world, driven by new genomic techniques (NGTs) which enable the precise gene editing of plants, animals and micro-organisms. This is delivering better crops, pharmaceuticals, plant-based proteins and much more, and yielding substantial added value to the global economy.

The EU is already getting left behind. Legacy anti-GMO regulations dating back to 2001 are currently applied to gene edited crops, forcing genetics startups to move abroad and leaving the worldwide bioeconomy revolution moribund in Europe. In order to address this, the European Commission made proposals in July 2023 to update the regulation of NGTs more in keeping with scientific progress.

While we view these proposals as insufficiently ambitious, we also acknowledge that they do move in the right direction. However, many NGOs, political parties and member states oppose them outright, seeking to prevent any widespread use of NGTs in Europe. If they succeed in blocking progress on NGTs, Europe will have no bioeconomy revolution.

This report quantifies the cost of saying ‘no’ to science in Europe over the next decade. In our new analysis:

  • We examine the growth potential that could be delivered by NGTs in the agriculture and food; materials, chemicals and energy; and human health sectors.
  • We provide low and high estimates for the potential economic benefits of NGT use per year from 2020 up to 2040 in 2020 billions of euros in order to calculate opportunity cost of non-adoption.
  • We find that the economic benefits foregone to the EU of not adopting NGTs range from €171-335 billion annually.
  • We estimate that this compounds to an economic loss, at the high end estimate, of over €3 trillion of economic benefits over a decade.
  • We conclude that the Commission’s proposals must progress and indeed be improved upon if Europe is not to give a €3 trillion ‘no’ to the bioscience revolution.