A public consultation on an EU proposal to allow for the regulation and sale of plants that are genetically changed using new techniques has been opened.

The EU wants to regulate to allow the use of plants which have the arrangement of their genomes altered or edited by scientists, or have genes from one species transferred to a related, crossable species.

The aim of New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) is to produce climate resilient crops, reduce the use of chemical pesticides and ensure there are adequate food supplies while protecting human health.

Under current EU law, an array of new technologies involving genetic manipulation fall foul of the bloc's Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) legislation.

That dates back to the 1990s and restricts the sale of GMO in the EU. In 2018 the EU Court of Justice ruled plants changed using NGTs fell under the scope of the GMO legislation.

Under a new proposal from the European Commission however, plants altered using NGTs would be allowed.

NGTs allow scientists to alter the sequence of genes within a plant species or to transfer genes from naturally crossable species, in order to emphasise positive traits for food production in that species.

The European Commission says the proposals are comparable to natural crossbreeding or evolution of a species, albeit at a much faster pace.

NGTs are already widely used in food technology, but mainly outside the EU, due to the bloc's GMO laws.

The main concerns around NGTs, according to the Commission, relate to their possible safety and environmental impact including on biodiversity, coexistence with organic and genetically modified -free agriculture, as well as labelling and consumers' right to information and freedom of choice.

Stakeholders have different and often opposing views on these aspects.

The European Commission has undertaken a broad public consultation on the NGT proposals, and now Ireland's Department of Agriculture is seeking the public’s views.

The Irish public consultation will be open for three weeks, and closes on 25 September.