Publication date: 09/02/2007


In organic agriculture the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is banned.

Recently, two novel breeding techniques have been developed, i.e., cisgenesis and reverse breeding, both of which are based on gene technology but should raise less moral concerns from the public. Whether the products of these breeding processes are classified as GMOs depends on the interpretation of the relevant EU regulations.

In cisgenic plants, the genes introduced through genetic modification are from a crossable donor plant so that the source of the genes is considered to be of the same nature. In reverse breeding, the recombinant genes, essential to the breeding process, are no longer present in the product resulting from the entire breeding process, and thus the product as such is not transgenic. Should varieties obtained through cisgenesis or reverse breeding be allowed in organic agriculture?

The answer to this question depends on whether the product or the process of breeding is taken into account. Assessment based on the product implies a choice of an ethical approach that only considers the extrinsic consequences of human action by making a risk-benefit analysis. It neglects so-called intrinsic, ethical arguments related to the applied technology (the process] itself. The organic movement uses the intrinsic argument of ‘unnaturalness’ against genetic engineering. We therefore conclude that products of cisgenesis and reverse breeding should be subject to the current GMO-regulations in organic agriculture and should thus be banned from organic agriculture.

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