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Israel: Crops / Food

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Determined: No Unique Regulations*

Gene-edited crops that do not contain DNA from another species are regulated as conventional plants, so they don’t face the tighter restrictions of transgenic GMOs.

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.

Products/Research

  • 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.

Regulatory Timeline

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.

NGO Reaction

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.

Additional Resources

Click on a country (eg. Brazil, US) or region (eg. European Union) below to find which agriculture products and processes are approved or in development and their regulatory status. The regulations on genetically engineered crops and animals are emerging out of the regulatory landscape developed for transgenic GMOs.

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Agriculture Gene Editing Index
Compare Regulatory Restrictions Country-to-Country

Gene editing regulations worldwide are evolving. The Gene Editing Index ratings below represent the current status of gene editing regulations and will be updated as new regulations are passed.

Colors and ratings guide
 

Regulation StatusRating
Determined: No Unique Regulations*10
Lightly Regulated8
Proposed: No Unique Regulations†6
Ongoing Research, Regulations In Development5
Highly Regulated4
Mostly Prohibited2
Limited Research, No Clear Regulations1
Prohibited0
Lightly Regulated: Some or all types of gene editing are regulated more strictly than conventional agriculture, but not as strictly as transgenic GMOs.
*Determined: No Unique Regulations: Gene-edited crops that do not incorporate DNA from another species are regulated as conventional plants with no additional restrictions.

†Proposed: No Unique Regulations: Decrees under consideration for gene-edited crops that do not incorporate DNA from another species would no require unique regulations beyond current what is imposed on conventional breeding.

Crops/Food:
Gene editing of plants and food products. Research and development has mostly focused on disease resistance, drought resistance, and increasing yield, but more recent advances have produced low trans-fat oils and high-fiber grains.
Animals:
Gene editing of animals, not including animal research for human drugs and therapies. Fewer gene edited animals have been developed than gene edited crops, but scientists have developed hornless and heat-tolerant cattle and fast-growing tilapia may soon be the first gene edited animal to be consumed.

Rating by Country / Region
Click each column header and arrow to sort the countries / regions

Swipe right/left if all columns aren't visible

Country / RegionFood / CropsAnimalsAg Rating
Japan888
Brazil101010
Canada888
Russia555
Argentina101010
Israel1057.5
Australia888
China555
US1047
Chile1015.5
New Zealand444
Ukraine111
Central America666
Paraguay101010
Uruguay666
India666
UK222
Mexico111
EU222
Colombia1015.5

Global gene editing regulatory landscape

The regulations on genetically engineered crops and animals are emerging out of the regulatory landscape developed for transgenic GMOs. Regulations across 34 countries where transgenic or gene edited crops and animals are commercially allowed (as of 12/19) are guided in part by two factors:
 
 
Whether the country has ratified the international agreement that took effect in 2003 that aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from biotechnology that may impact biological diversity, also taking into account potential risks to human health. It entered into force for those nations that signed it in 2003. It applies the ‘precautionary approach as contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The US, Canada, Australia and Chile and the Russian Federation have not signed the treaty.
 
 
Whether regulations are based on the genetic process used to create the trait (conventional, mutagenesis, transgenesis, gene editing, etc.) or the final product.Transgenic crops and animals (aka GMOs) are product regulated in many countries including the US and Canada, while the EU, India, China and others regulate based on how the product is made. There is almost an equal number of countries with product- and process-based regulations. It’s not clear how much this distinction matters. It’s somewhat true that countries with product-based regulation have more crops approved and the approval process is more streamlined, but there are contradictions. For example, Brazil and Argentina have emerged as GMO super powers using different regulatory concepts, while there is no GMO commercial cultivation in Japan, North Korea, and the Russian Federation, which employ product-based regulations. How this will effect gene editing regulations is also unclear. For example, Japan, which has no commercialized GMOs, is emerging as a leader in the introduction of gene edited crops.
Agricultural Landscape
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Gene editing is a set of techniques that can be used to precisely modify the DNA of almost any organism. It is being used for applications in human health, gene drives and agriculture. There are numerous gene-editing tools besides CRISPR-Cas 9, which gets most of the attention because it is a comparatively easy tool to use.

Gene editing does not usually involve transgenics – moving ‘foreign’ genes between species. It also refers to a specific technique in contrast to the general term GMO, which is scientifically ambiguous, as genetic modification is a process not a product. Most gene editing involves creating new products by deleting very small segments of DNA (sometimes in agriculture called Site-Directed Nuclease 1 or SDN-1 techniques), which can silence a gene or change a gene’s activity. Countries are evaluating whether or not to regulate this type of gene editing, since it is so similar to natural mutations. The GLP’s Gene Editing Index ratings reflect the regulatory status of SDN-1 techniques, which are the most liberally regulated and will generate most products in the near term.

To develop different products, gene editing can change larger segments of DNA or add DNA from other species (a form of transgenics sometimes in agriculture called SDN-2 or SDN-3 techniques). While many countries are not regulating or lightly regulating SDN-1 techniques, most are moving toward tightly regulating or even restricting SDN-2 and SDN-3.

For more background on the various gene editing SDN techniques, read background articles here and here.

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