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Economic and environmental consequences of the ECJ genome editing judgment in agriculture

Genome-edited crops are on the verge of being placed on the market and their agricultural and food products will thus be internationally traded soon. National regulations, however, diverge regarding the classification of genome-edited crops. Major countries such as the US and Brazil do not specifically regulate genome-edited crops, while in the European Union, they fall under GMO legislation, according to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). As it is in some cases impossible to analytically distinguish between products from genome-edited plants and those from non-genome-edited plants, EU importers may fear the risk of violating EU legislation. They may choose not to import any agricultural and food products based on crops for which genome-edited varieties are available. Therefore, crop products of which the EU is currently a net importer would become more expensive in the EU, and production would intensify. Furthermore, an intense substitution of products covered and not covered by genome editing would occur in consumption, production, and trade. We analyzed the effects of such a cease of EU imports for cereals and soy in the EU agricultural sector with the comparative static agricultural sector equilibrium model CAPRI. Our results indicate dramatic effects on agricultural and food prices as well as on farm income. The intensification of EU agriculture may result in negative net environmental effects in the EU as well as in an increase in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This suggests that trade effects should be considered when developing domestic regulation for genome-edited crops.

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