Bio Council wants to soften gene legislation

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Biotechnology Council wants to soften gene legislation

There is a need for a more forward-looking law on genetic engineering, says the Biotechnology Council.


Technological development and unclear perceptions of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) increase the need for a review of legislation, the Council believes, which one year ago took the initiative for a nationwide debate on the subject.

Then the whole of Norway was invited to come with input on how a future GMO regulatory framework should be. A similar «consultation round» has never been conducted before.

Unique insight

– The inputs have provided a unique insight into what a variety of environments and individuals think about GMO technology, it is stated in a press release from the Council.

Among the inputs that are highlighted is that gene editing and other genetic technologies can contribute to more sustainable agriculture and aquaculture and increase Norwegian competitiveness, while at the same time the responsibility for nature and the environment and consumer trust remain important factors.

On Tuesday, the Biotechnology Council will present its proposal for a GMO regulation at an open meeting at the Literature House in Oslo.

More flexibility

An overall Biotechnology Council believes it is important to have a future-oriented genetic engineering law that ensures sufficient flexibility while keeping the authorities with oversight and control.

This can be done, among other things, by differentiating the requirements for impact assessment to a greater extent than what is being done today. Requirements for such impact assessment should be increased in line with the risk, the Council believes.

A joint council also recommends that the authorities already prepare and use the possibilities contained in the current regulations, for greater flexibility in the processing of applications for the use of GMOs.

In addition, a public committee should be set up that may examine further proposals for amendments to the genetic code’s provisions on the release of genetically modified organisms, the Council believes.


The Council points out that different technologies for gene modification have existed for more than 30 years. In recent years there has been a rapid development in the area. In particular, the CRISPR technology is revolutionary.

However, the laws governing the field were designed in the early 1990s and have not kept pace with technological developments.

– Therefore, there is increasing debate both in Norway, the EU and the rest of the world about how genetic engineering should be regulated, including whether current regulations are suitable for research and development of tomorrow’s products, the Council writes in the press release.

Heated debate

– The debate has been further accentuated after the European Court of Justice decided in summer that all organisms produced by genetic engineering should be regulated as GMOs. More and more people now want a debate about whether the nearly 30-year-old GMO provisions should be renewed, it goes on.

Strict legislation has resulted in very few applications for the use or release of genetically modified organisms, the Council points out.

Currently, only five types of genetically modified carnations are approved for import to Norway.

Facts about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms that:
  • has genes introduced from the same or other species through classical genetic modification technology.
  • has been subject to gene editing – targeted changes with or without insertion of gene material.
  • have received temporary delivery of nucleic acids, such as RNA / DNA vaccines.
  • have had their gene “fingerprint” regulated, eg. through the use of nucleic acids.
  • has been merged with cells from another species.

Facts about the Gene Technology Law

  • Implemented in 1993.
  • Regulates the production and use of living genetically modified organisms (GMOs), such as plants, as well as substances and products containing or consisting of such.
  • The Act shall ensure that production and use are conducted in an ethically and socially sound manner in accordance with the principle of sustainable development and without danger to health or the environment.
  • Dead / processed GMOs (eg for feed and food) are regulated by the Food Manufacturing and Food Safety Act.
  • GMOs that are banned in the EU are automatically banned in Norway. Norway may also ban an EU-approved GMO, due to a permanent exception in the EEA Agreement.


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