Agri-Food Biotechnologies Regulation: a comparative perspective

Authors: Giorgia Guerra


Technological change impacts the agri-food sector and generates new competitive pressure. As well as the digital technologies that are introducing new business models and revolutionizing the traditional food chain, with new consumers’ protection tools, emerging genetic engineering techniques (e.g. gene editing) – which the present article is focused on – are thoroughly impacting food nature and production modality. This new step of scientific progress is also blurring the line between issues traditionally ascribed to the different fields of environment law and safety law. Biotechnology is, in fact, one of the strategic keys enabling technologies to support a new green and sustainable economy (i.e. bioeconomy) responding to the need for new food production technology, more efficient resource use, and responsible value chains, in a context in which sustainable food system is promoted by the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategies.
Analyzing the current European debate on the appropriateness of stringent GMO legislation to new DNA alterations (such as gene editing) and discussing upcoming changes, such as for instance the perspective of overcoming the “safe enough” narrative (EGE, 2021), and the proposal stemming from the EU Commission’s Study on the status of new genomic techniques (April 29, 2021), the article aims at finding out how the European Union manages to balance economic interests with consumers’ fundamental rights protection to maintain the appropriate functionality of the internal market fostering innovation. The comparative study between the two main regulatory models, historically characterizing different food cultures and contexts will be analyzed in parallel with a keen eye to the most recent debate about the EU need to empower new innovative technologies for sustainability will lead us to express some critical remarks toward the factors that prevent the development of an adequate regulatory environment for agri-food biotechnologies.

Keywords: European Law, Regulatory models, Safety, Consumers protection, Environment, Health Protection, Biotechnologies