Government commits to make it easier to edit genes in plants and animals

The government has confirmed that it will introduce legislation in the near future to speed up the use of gene editing as a way to improve both crops and livestock.

While a full government response to the consultation it conducted earlier in the year is still awaited, a statement from Cabinet Minister Lord Frost said the change is underway.

“In the coming weeks, Whitehall Secretaries of State will present bold strategies and proposals to keep the UK at the forefront of innovation and technology,” the statement said.

See also: Gene editing – the pros and cons of farming

This will include regulatory reform on genetically modified organisms, “which will enable more sustainable and efficient agriculture, and help produce healthier and more nutritious food.”

The comments were in a government announcement outlining how the UK plans to break with the EU rulebook and ‘leverage the freedoms of Brexit so that our rules and regulations best serve the UK’s national interest. -United “.

“From rules on data storage to the ability of companies to develop new green technologies, authoritarian regulations have often been designed and agreed to in Brussels, disregarding the UK national interest,” Lord Frost said.

“We now have the opportunity to do things differently and ensure that the freedoms of Brexit are used to help businesses and citizens succeed and succeed. “

Reforms

The exact gene editing reforms planned by the government will become clear in the coming weeks, when Defra publishes its response to the consultation.

A recent report from the Regulatory Horizons Council – an independent adviser to government – suggested a new approach to licensing products derived from genetic technologies.

Product approval should still ensure food safety, he said, but there should be a better balance between the precautionary principle and potential future benefits.

The end product rather than the process involved should determine its approval, according to the report.

The consultation clearly indicated Defra’s intention to differentiate between genetically modified crops, which could also be produced by natural mutation, and GMOs, which may involve the addition of genes from other species.

Support

Such an approach would have the support of traditional farmer organizations.

David Michie, crop policy manager at NFU Scotland, described gene editing as “just another breeding technique” that could be used to produce better crops and better livestock.

“These may have characteristics that will benefit animal welfare, public health, the environment and farmers,” he said. in a blog.

“New varieties can be used as part of a future farming system that will better achieve sustainable practices that politicians and some farmers want to see, such as integrated pest management or regenerative agriculture.

“In the 21st century, a new livestock revolution can also help tackle the greatest challenges of our time: climate change. Gene editing is a tool that should be removed and used to move forward towards a net zero future.