Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Rule changes announced to make gene editing crops easier

UK Government says gene editing of plants could help breed crops that are more resistant to pests and diseases.
UK Government says gene editing of plants could help breed crops that are more resistant to pests and diseases.

Rule changes to make it easier to research and develop “gene edited” food crops such as sugar beet south of the border have been announced by the UK Government.                                           

However the Scottish Government made it clear it remains firmly opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), so the move will have no impact on the current policy here.

Gene editing makes changes to the traits within a species of plant or animal much more quickly and precisely than traditional selective breeding which has been used for centuries to create stronger, healthier crops and livestock.

The UK Government said gene editing of plants could help breed crops that are more nutritious or resistant to pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it was aware of Defra’s plans to change Engish regulations to enable the use of gene editing technologies.

He added: “The Scottish Government is committed to keeping aligned with the EU, and we are therefore closely monitoring the EU’s position on this issue.

“We will continue to engage with Defra, Wales, and Northern Ireland to ensure that devolved competences are respected in charting our future direction.”

Gene editing could see the development of crops such as sugar beet that are resistant to viruses that hit yields without the use of pesticides, or foods from which chemical compounds that are harmful to human health have been removed.

The rule changes will allow field trials of gene edited crops without having to go through a licensing process that takes a couple of months and costs researchers £5,000 to £10,000, although scientists will still have to inform Defra of their work.

The move is the first stage of an approach that could see gene edited foods sold on UK supermarket shelves in the future.

It comes despite 87% of individual responses to a Government consultation raising concerns that the risk of gene editing was greater than for traditional breeding and it should continue to be regulated as GMOs.

However responses by academic institutes and public bodies reflected a view there was no greater risk.

Officials and scientists draw a distinction between gene editing, which involves the manipulation of genes within a single species or genus, and GM, in which DNA from one species is introduced to a different one.

But following an EU ruling in 2018, it is regulated in the same stringent way as GM organisms, a situation which Environment Secretary George Eustice said could be changed now the UK has left the bloc.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice

Mr Eustice said: “Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that nature has provided.

“It is a tool that could help us in order to tackle some of the biggest challenges that we face – around food security, climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Outside the EU, we are able to foster innovation to help grow plants that are stronger and more resilient to climate change.

“We will be working closely with farming and environmental groups to ensure that the right rules are in place.”

In a response to a consultation on the issue, the Government said that, as a first step, it will change the rules relating to research and development of plants using gene editing, to align them with plants developed using traditional breeding methods.

Scientists will still be required to notify Defra of any research trials they are conducting involving gene editing plants.

The next step would be to review the regulatory definitions of a genetically modified organism, to exclude organisms produced by gene editing where it could have been achieved more slowly by traditional breeding methods.

Gene edited food products could be brought to the market for consumers to buy.

The Government said it would consider the appropriate measures needed to enable gene edited products to be brought to market safely and responsibly, followed in the longer term by a broader review of GM regulation.

It said foods will only be permitted to be marketed if it is judged they do not present a risk to health, do not mislead consumers and do not have lower nutritional value than non-genetically modified counterparts.

Prof Robin May, the Food Standards Agency’s chief scientific adviser, said: “There are significant benefits to changing the way we regulate genetic technologies, to make sure the system is as up to date as possible and properly takes into account new technologies and scientific discoveries.

“We support giving consumers choice and recognise the potential benefits that gene edited plants and animals may bring to the food system.”

 

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]