Gene-edited crops and food are regulated as conventional plants unless they contain foreign DNA, after a dossier is submitted to determine if they are exempt. Gene-edited crops are assessed on a case-by-case basis based on the characteristics of the final product, not on the process used to develop the product. There are no commercially available genetically engineered plants in Israel.
Genetically engineered organisms are regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development oversees the Plant Protection and Inspection Service (PPIS) and the Israeli National Committee for Transgenic Plants (NCTP). In 2016, the NCTP decided that as long as gene-edited crops do not contain DNA from other species, they would not be subject to GMO regulations, which are regulated by the Seed Act.
Under the Seed Regulations, genetically modified plants require permission from the Director of the PPIS, in consultation with the National Committee for Transgenic Plants, in order to be sold. The Ministry of Health stated that all new food products, including genetically engineered ones, must undergo risk assessment before approval.
- Weed-resistant tomato: Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) researchers developed a parasitic weed-resistant tomato using CRISPR. For research purposes only.
- Long-lasting petunias: A collaboration between Israel’s Danziger Innovations, Hebrew University’s Yissum Research Development Company and Precision Biosciences, a US company, produced a petunia that has a longer life than traditional versions of the flower.
- Colorful flowers: Researchers from Danziger Innovations and Precision Biosciences were able to manipulate the flower color of petunias and jasmine tobacco (an ornamental plant) using gene editing.
- Virus-resistant cucumber: Volcani Center researchers used CRISPR in 2016 to develop a cucumber strain resistant to certain viruses.
- Crop plant research: Danziger Innovations researchers tested gene editing techniques in peppers, cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes, wheat, maize, cotton and canola.
2018: State of Israel publishes intent to establish National Center for Genomic Editing and funding opportunities for genome editing research projects for agricultural products, which include plants and animals.
2016: Israeli National Committee for Transgenic Plants (NCTP) decides that gene-edited crops will be regulated as conventional plants unless they contain foreign DNA.
2013: NCTP decides that plants which are the progeny of plants that undergo targeted mutagenesis and do not incorporate foreign DNA into the genome of the plant are not considered transgenic plants and are not subject to the Seed Regulations that regulate GMOs.
2011: Israeli parliament’s Science and Technology Committee chair calls for de-stigmatizing genetically engineered agriculture products, calling concerns over the health risks of these products “unjustified.”
2005: Seed Regulations (Genetically Modified Plants and Organisms) issued by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development based upon two previously existing laws, the Seeds Law (1956) and the Plant Protection Law (1956), outline how GMOs will be regulated, including risks assessments.
The Israeli Kashrut, a religious authority, has said that genetic modification does not impact “kosher” status because of the “microscopic” apportionment of the modified material. This is contested by some Jewish groups both inside and outside of Israel, who have claimed this is a violation of scriptural prohibitions against mixed breeding in crops.