Ethics Committee: Genetic engineering holds little promise against climate crisis

- The Swiss Ethics Committee on Biotechnology (ECNH) considers the possibilities of new genetic engineering such as CRISPR to contribute quickly to climate adaptation in agriculture overrated and warns against betting on them.

Betting on the future ethically unjustifiable

In a new report, the Commission advises against giving new genetic engineering methods an important role in the urgently needed adaptation process of agriculture to the climate crisis. The chances of these methods are too small "to contribute significantly to adaptation in the given narrow time frame". To rely in this regard on new genetic engineering would mean "taking a bet on the future". Given the urgency, the report states, this is ethically unjustifiable.

Increase greenhouse gas reduction target

The ethics experts also call for a significant increase in the current greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent by 2050 for Swiss agriculture. In addition, the number of farm animals must be significantly reduced and more plant-based food must be grown for people.

EU Commission must also not soften rules prematurely

"This clear vote from Switzerland should also make the EU Commission take notice and re-consider its plans for genetic engineering deregulation," VLOG Managing Director Alexander Hissting comments on the ECNH report. "It is absolutely incomprehensible to rush into softening the rules on genetic engineering on the basis of mere announcements of plant traits of which it is uncertain whether they will ever come to exist.

Stop groundless genetic engineering deregulation as a matter of urgency

Research on such plants and their approval is already possible under the current rules; there is no need for deregulation. The immediate negative consequences for consumers, farmers, the organic and 'Ohne Gentechnik' (Non-GMO) economy, however, would be severe. The EU Commission must therefore urgently stop the unfounded deregulation of genetic engineering.

ECNH: Climate change, agriculture and the role of biotechnology Federal Ethics Commission warns against too high expectations in genetic engineering (in German)

Infodienst Gentechnik: Swiss Ethics Committee: Do not overrate climate benefits of genetic engineering (in German)