Norway: New public committee on gene technology

The Norwegian government has appointed a public committee to study genetic technology, new techniques, and regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The committee shall conduct a broad professional review of the technological status and possibilities, regulatory frameworks, the need for independent research, possible new risk aspects and ethical dilemmas.

Aina Bartmann in GMO-Network is member of the public committee

 

The committee will start its work as soon as possible and will deliver its report by June 1, 2022.

-We hope this process will contribute to an open, democratic debate on all perspectives connected to GMOs says Cesilie Aurbakken, chair in GMO-Network Norway.

Chair in GMO-Network and CEO for Rural Woman Norway

The committee’s mandate

– Explain technological status, expected technological development, and possibilities and limitations

– Describe ethical dilemmas and challenges, including the extent to which regulations today safeguard the environment, public health and society at large, possibly hindering or delaying the development of products that would otherwise be socially beneficial

– Assess and describe risk aspects, for example related to the use of new techniques for genetic modification – Describe links between GMO legislation and the regulation of genetically modified food and feed along the entire value chain from producer to consumer, pointing out any strengths and weaknesses .

– Evaluate Norwegian practice for assessment and approval of GMO drugs for clinical tests, compare it with EU practice, possibly propose changes

– Assess the need for independent research and the importance of intellectual property rights (patents) in research and development

– Evaluate the Biotechnology Council’s recommendation from December 2018 on changes in the Norwegian GMO management system

– Describe the room of maneuver for genetic engineering management and food management in Norway within the framework of the EEA agreement and international obligations on trade and biodiversity

– Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a technology-based regulation (as in the

the Act relating to the Production and Use of Genetically Modified Organisms) against a more product-based model

– Evaluate if the definition of GMOs in current legislation is still useful, optionally suggest changes and / or distinguish between gene-editing and genetically modified organisms

– Propose changes to the Act relating to the Production and Use of Genetically Modified Organisms and GMO regulations under the Food Act and / or adjustments in the administration where the committee deems it necessary or useful

 

Composition of the committee

Anna Wargelius, head of research at the Institute of Marine Research (leader)

Arne Holst Jensen, senior researcher at the Veterinary Institute

Trygve Brautaset, professor of synthetic biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Kaare Magne Nielsen, Professor of Microbiology at Oslo Metropolitan University (Oslo Met)

Muath Alsheikh, head of research at Graminor AS (Norwegian plant breeding company responsible for developing new varieties suited for Norway/Nordics)

Ingvild Ulrikke Jakobsen, professor of law at the Arctic University of Norway (UiT)

Ole Kristian Fauchald, professor at the Department of Public Law at University of Oslo (UiO)

Espen Gamlund, professor of philosophy at University of Bergen (UiB)

Fern Wickson, scientific leader at the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission

Aina Nilsen Bartmann, CEO of the GMO-Network Norway

Sigrid Bratlie, Special Adviser to the Norwegian Cancer Society and GENEinnovate (a project aiming at developing innovative solutions to industry concerns using gene editing)

Camilla Tøndel, chief physician at Haukeland University Hospital

Secretariat

Secretariat for the committee is the Ministry of climate and environment in cooperation with the Norwegian Environment Agency and relevant ministries.

Oslo 13th of September 2020

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The GMO-Network in Norway works for freedom of choice for consumers and farmers
The network will help to maintain a restrictive practice towards GMOs in Norway in a situation where legislation and business are under pressure. We will through information and other measures, help to spread this  precautionary approach to GMOs. The network wishes to build alliances internationally to establish food sovereignty, including the right to reject GMOs in food and feed.

Organizations affiliated with the network:

  • Biodynamic Association Norway
  • COOP Norway
  • Debio – control body organic production
  • Denofa AS
  • Farmers Markets Norway
  • Federation of Norwegian Agricultural Co-operatives
  • Friends of the Earth Norway
  • Greenpeace Norway
  • Nature and Youth (Young Friends of the Earth Norway)
  • Norwegian Beekeepers’ Association
  • Norwegian Farmers’ Union
  • Norwegian Rural Youth
  • Norwegian Farmers and Smallholders Union
  • Organic Norway
  • REMA 1000 Norway
  • SPIRE- Youth organization -The Development Fund
  • The Development Fund – Norway
  • The Norwegian Society of Rural Women
From our political platform

The need for more knowledge
Genetic engineering differs from traditional breeding and processing in both radicalism and pace. This calls for a precautionary approach to GMOs. More independent research on long-term consequences for the environment and human health is necessary.

Adverse effects on the environment and conventional/organic farming
The network is not against GMOs in general, but against the GMOs on the market today. In our opinion, they have adverse effects on the ecological system and cause unacceptable trouble for conventional and organic farming.

Ensure freedom of choice for consumers and farmers
It has proved very difficult to keep GMOs separate from conventional agriculture. Cross-contamination may occur anywhere along the way from farm to table. The safest way to ensure freedom of choice in the future is therefore to ask for non-genetically modified products today.

Sufficient, safe food for everyone – alternatives to GMOs:
Food production must be increased under conditions that are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. More effort and research must be invested in agro-ecological farming methods that have often proved to be more efficient than GMO farming.

Loss of diversity and control of seed and food sources.
Today the use of genetically modified plants reinforces the use of extreme monocultural and patent systems, which threatens the biodiversity of both food crops and wildlife. We find it unacceptable that private companies should hold power over food. Our aim is foodsovereignty for all nations and people, including the right to reject GMOs.

Norwegian legislation
The Norwegian Gene Technology Act is among the world’s strictest. It requires that genetically modified products contribute to sustainable development in order to be approved. It is ethically unacceptable to permit the import and use of GMOs grown in other countries that are not allowed to be cultivated in Norway.