A new report by the Breakthrough Institute and the Alliance for Science presents an in-depth analysis of the potential economic impact tied to the European Union's current regulatory approach to new genomic techniques (NGTs). The report, titled "The €3 Trillion Cost of Saying No: How the EU Risks Falling Behind in the Bioeconomy Revolution," discusses the burgeoning global bioeconomy, emphasizing the role of NGTs in various sectors including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and plant-based proteins.
The study highlights that the EU's existing regulations, established in 2001, categorize gene-edited crops as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), influencing the relocation of genetics startups and affecting bioeconomic progress in Europe. It acknowledges the European Commission's July 2023 proposals to update NGT regulations, noting the opposition these proposals have encountered from various NGOs, political parties, and member states.
Dr. Emma Kovak, Senior Food and Agriculture Analyst at the Breakthrough Institute, commented “The EU is falling further behind as countries around the world continue to pass new regulations that support the use of gene editing technologies, which are a vital part of bioeconomy growth. In saying no to scientific innovation, the EU is missing out on a wide array of benefits, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and food production.”
The report offers a detailed review of the potential growth NGTs could bring to agriculture, materials, chemicals and energy, and human health sectors. It provides estimates for the potential economic benefits of NGT use from 2020 to 2040, suggesting that not adopting NGTs could result in an annual economic opportunity cost of €171-335 billion for the EU. The report further projects that this could compound to over €3 trillion over a decade.
Dr Sheila Ochugboju, director of the Alliance for Science, commented: "This report details the high cost of saying no to scientific innovations. It is also vitally important to consider the impact of the EU's regulatory decision-making on the Global South, where an overly precautionary approach can hamper efforts to tackle food insecurity and reduce poverty".
The document also revisits the 2018 European Court of Justice decision that subjects organisms modified using NGTs to the EU’s 2001 GMO legislation, a regulation established before the advent of precise gene-editing methods like CRISPR. The report discusses the scientific community's concern regarding the EU's position on NGTs, especially in light of the global advancements in bioeconomy.
Additionally, the report mentions opinions from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and scientific advisory groups, which suggest that NGTs do not introduce new safety risks compared to conventional breeding and established genomic techniques.
The European Commission's proposal from July 2023 is outlined, detailing its aim to categorize plants developed using NGTs into two categories based on the extent of their genomic modifications..
In its conclusion the report underscores the economic considerations for the EU surrounding the adoption or non-adoption of NGTs.
To read the full report and its analysis, click here.