The divergent governance of gene editing in agriculture: a comparison of institutional reports from seven EU member states

In 2018, the EU Court of Justice ruled that gene edited organisms “are GMOs and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO directive [EU Directive 2001/18/EC]”. While the EU Court of Justice has established an equivalence between gene edited organisms and GMOs, how have national institutions and committees from EU member states positioned themselves regarding the use of gene editing in agriculture? In order to answer this question, this article examines and compares 11 official reports and position statements from 7 European countries: Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and Sweden. The various kinds of issues that are addressed and arguments that are made in the reports are coded into large categories (innovation, risk, ethics, legislation, etc.) and are analysed. The paper discusses the main similarities and differences in terms of how the governance of gene editing is problematized. For instance, while some reports consider gene editing in terms of technology, risk and regulation, others situate gene editing within larger debates about agriculture, intellectual property, ethics, public participation, and the responsibility of scientists. The paper aims to provide a useful resource to broaden debates on the future regulation of gene editing within and beyond Europe. It also calls for an analysis of the objectification of gene editing: how are gene edited organisms rendered tangible, discussable and public via policy processes? How are they tied to national territories, identities, histories or products and how does this (re)nationalizing of gene edited organisms matter within and beyond EU member states?