We know that some terms we use are very technical – this is why we have include this glossary of the most essential concepts to follow our argumentation. Promoting a fact-based discussion and respectful exchange of ideas count amongst our top priorities, and we regard it as our duty to encourage the public debate.
We also invite you to contact us with any questions and comments, and we are also looking forward to providing infographics in the near future. Stay curious!
European Citizens' Initiative
A tool for direct democracy in the EU
Every citizen of the European Union can start a European Citizens' Initiative on an issue which falls into the competencies of the European Commission. An initiative usually aims at urging the European Commission to act upon a certain case in a proposed way. The initiative needs to be filed by at least 7 citizens from different EU member states. After submitting the proposal, the Commission has two months to state whether the initiative is admissible. When the Commission decides that an initiative is admissible the initiators have one year to collect one million signatures. These signatures need to come from citizens of all EU member states, with country-specific thresholds proportional to the respective populations. If each country threshold is reached, the European Commission needs to consider the proposal. They will decide whether to take action on the issues raised by the citizens, for instance by proposing a law. Their proposal will then be reviewed by the Parliament and the Council in the Ordinary Legislative Procedure. The proposal only becomes law if they both accept it.
Genetically modified organism
Traditional GMOs are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially modified in a way that could not have occurred through natural breeding with the same or a similar species. These GMOs may contain genetic material from organisms with which they could not have exchanged this material naturally and are then referred to as transgenes. The cultivation and marketing of such GMOs are strictly regulated in the EU to ensure our own and the environment’s safety.
Conventional Mutagenesis Techniques
Traditional plant breeding techniques
These techniques are traditional plant breeding techniques in which seeds are treated with chemicals or radiation to develop new traits. These approaches rely on generating random mutations in the entire genome of plants. The plants with the desired characteristics are then selected for further cultivation – all in all, a cumbersome process. Plant varieties obtained using mutagenesis – conventional or novel methods - do not contain genetic material from a foreign species. Hence, conventional mutagenesis techniques are exempted from strict regulations laid out in the EU’s GMO directive and products thereof have been safely grown and consumed for decades.
New plant breeding techniques
NPBTs are a suit of methods developed in the past decade that are used to breed new plant varieties by carefully changing the genetic material of seeds or plant cells instead of relying on random mutations. By mimicking natural mutations, NPBTs can be used to facilitate breeding of crops that are resilient to drought and pests, have higher yields, better quality and thus contribute to food security and the sustainable development of agriculture. Unfortunately, the current legal framework in the EU requires equal treatment of artificially produced GMOs and plants that were altered with NPBTs in a nature-mimicking, but carefully targeted way. This also restricts the use of plants obtained by NPBTs which could have occurred naturally.