Panel members at the time of adoption
Synthetic Biology (SynBio) is an interdisciplinary field at the interface of engineering and biology aiming to develop new biological systems and impart new functions to living cells. EFSA has been asked by the European Commission to evaluate SynBio developments in agri‐food with the aim of identifying the adequacy of existing guidelines for risk assessment and determine if updated guidance is needed. The scope of this opinion covers the molecular characterisation and environmental risk assessment of such genetically modified plants obtained through SynBio, meant to be for cultivation or food and feed purposes. The previous work on SynBio by the non‐food scientific Committees (2014, 2015) was used and complemented with the output of a horizon scanning exercise, which was commissioned by the EFSA to identify the most realistic and forthcoming SynBio cases of relevance to this remit. The horizon scan did not identify other sectors/advances in addition to the six SynBio categories previously identified by the non‐food scientific committees of the European Commission. The exercise did show that plant SynBio products reaching the market in the near future (next decade) are likely to apply SynBio approaches to their development using existing genetic modification and genome editing technologies. In addition, three hypothetical SynBio case studies were selected by the working group of the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), to further support the scoping exercise of this Scientific Opinion. Using the selected cases, the GMO Panel concludes that the requirements of the EU regulatory framework and existing EFSA guidelines are adequate for the risk assessment of SynBio products to be developed in the next 10 years, although specific requirements may not apply to all products. The GMO Panel acknowledges that as SynBio developments evolve, a need may exist to adjust the guidelines to ensure they are adequate and sufficient.
This publication is linked to the following EFSA Supporting Publications article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/sp.efsa.2021.EN-2000/full