Scientific opinion addressing the safety assessment of plants developed using Zinc Finger Nuclease 3 and other Site-Directed Nucleases with similar function
The European Commission requested that the EFSA Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms deliver a scientific opinion related to risk assessment of plants developed using the zinc finger nuclease 3 technique (ZFN-3) which allows the integration of gene(s) in a predefined insertion site in the genome of the recipient species. Since other nucleases with a similar function to ZFN are considered in this opinion the term site-directed nuclease 3 (SDN-3) is used to describe the technique rather than ZFN-3 specifically. The EFSA GMO Panel considers that its guidance documents are applicable for the evaluation of food and feed products derived from plants developed using the SDN-3 technique and for performing an environmental risk assessment. However, on a case-by-case basis lesser amounts of event specific data may be needed for the risk assessment of plants developed using the SDN-3 technique. The EFSA GMO Panel compared the hazards associated with plants produced by the SDN-3 technique with those obtained by conventional plant breeding techniques and by currently used transgenesis. With respect to the genes introduced, the SDN-3 technique does not differ from transgenesis or from the other genetic modification techniques currently used, and can be used to introduce transgenes, intragenes or cisgenes. The main difference between the SDN-3 technique and transgenesis is that the insertion of DNA is targeted to a predefined region of the genome. Therefore, the SDN-3 technique can minimise hazards associated with the disruption of genes and/or regulatory elements in the recipient genome. Whilst the SDN-3 technique can induce off-target changes in the genome of the recipient plant these would be fewer than those occurring with most mutagenesis techniques. Furthermore, where such changes occur they would be of the same types as those produced by conventional breeding techniques.