In April 2017, the Scientific Advice Mechanism (‘SAM’)presented its explanatory note on ‘New Techniques in Agricultural Biotechnology’ to the European Commission (‘the SAM Note’). The SAM Note provides a detailed description of the nature and characteristics of so-called‘plant breeding innovations’ or ‘new breeding techniques’(‘NBTs’), and how they are similar to or different from conventional breeding techniques (‘CBT’, such as crossing and selection, or mutation breeding) and established techniques of genetic modification(‘GM’, such as the use of recombinant nucleic acids).

According to the SAM Note, the term ‘NBTs’ refers to a wide range of new breeding methods, some of which are substantially different from established transgenic approaches in their way of introducing traits to an organism.Whereas some NBTs amount to a refinement of CBT and integrate genetic material that is derived from a sexually compatible species, some nevertheless are used in combination with established GM techniques. Some NBTs result in organisms that contain only point mutations and are practically indistinguishable from varieties bred through CBT. The NBTs that have attracted most attention in recent years (and are, presumably also for that reason, currently subject to a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU or ‘CJEU’) are the so-called genome editing techniques.The present article focuses specifically on those genome editing techniques

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