EFSA was asked by the European Commission to evaluate synthetic biology (SynBio) developments for agri-food use in the near future and to determine whether or not they are expected to constitute potential new hazards/risks. Moreover, EFSA was requested to evaluate the adequacy of existing guidelines for risk assessment of SynBio and if updated guidance is needed. The scope of this Opinion covers food and feed risk assessment, the variety of microorganisms that can be used in the food/feed chain and the whole spectrum of techniques used in SynBio. This Opinion complements a previously adopted Opinion with the evaluation of existing guidelines for the microbial characterisation and environmental risk assessment of microorganisms obtained through SynBio. The present Opinion confirms that microbial SynBio applications for food and feed use, with the exception of xenobionts, could be ready in the European Union in the next decade. New hazards were identified related to the use or production of unusual and/or new-to-nature components. Fifteen cases were selected for evaluating the adequacy of existing guidelines. These were generally adequate for assessing the product, the production process, nutritional and toxicological safety, allergenicity, exposure and post-market monitoring. The comparative approach and a safety assessment per se could be applied depending on the degree of familiarity of the SynBio organism/product with the non-genetically modified counterparts. Updated guidance is recommended for: (i) bacteriophages, protists/microalgae, (ii) exposure to plant protection products and biostimulants, (iii) xenobionts and (iv) feed additives for insects as target species. Development of risk assessment tools is recommended for assessing nutritional value of biomasses, influence of microorganisms on the gut microbiome and the gut function, allergenic potential of new-to-nature proteins, impact of horizontal gene transfer and potential risks of living cell intake. A further development towards a strain-driven risk assessment approach is recommended.
- agri-food use
- genetically modified microorganism (GMM)
- risk assessment
- synthetic biology