Europe has long been known as a safer standard for health ingredients and products when compared to the United States, and now, the European Commission has opened a consultation on new genomic techniques (NGTs) to the public--almost guaranteeing there will be controversy.

The European Union has long held an almost-total ban on first-generation genetically modified organisms (GMO). This is controversial, in that it also restricts work with new and more refined/specific gene editing methods that don't involve transgenes insertion from other species. This work, according to many European agribusiness leaders, is necessary to not only make crops more climate resistant but also to ensure food security when looking at the chaos that has come from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Stella Kyriakides is the European Commission's Health and Food Safety Commissioner and said that plants obtained with NGTs could be the answer. Kyriakides also said that the safety of the environment and consumers will be the guiding principle in the work.

But not everyone sees the deregulation efforts as good for the climate or the environment. Heike Moldenhauer is the secretary-general of the European non-GMO Industry Association and believes that liberalizing the rules will mean producers will have a near-impossible time keeping genetically modified foods out of their supply chains--even if they're modified with NGTs.

After a landmark 2018 judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Commission published a study that indicated the strong regulation against GMO work is no longer fit for purpose, in that new genomic techniques have been developed and revolutionized genome editing. The 2018 ruling said that despite much greater precision, new genome editing techniques should still fall into the framework that the first-generation GMOs should.

Still, advocates worrying about climate change and food security argue we need a wake-up call and to do something different as not only may we run out of food but many believe the stringent laws damage European innovation as they are some of the strictest in the world.

The Commission will adopt a proposal for a new legal framework for NGTs in the second quarter of 2023, but it's likely going to trigger a political battle between many groups. With regard to specific countries, the Netherlands is more favorable toward deregulation, as is Spain, while Germany is complicated as new political parties battle over free-market enterprises. Luxembourg opposes the liberal deregulation for the most part, and so do several other smaller EU countries.

We'll watch to see what happens as the US is often decades behind whatever happens in the EU.