The UK may increase its use of gene-edited crops now that it is out of the EU. The Financial Times reports that the British government is to begin a consultation on the matter, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) saying that gene editing held potential major benefits such as reducing dependence on pesticides, and argued the process was distinct from highly contentious genetic modification.
Environment secretary George Eustice presented a 10-week consultation into regulating gene editing differently from GM, which would constitute a reverse of the EU policy. In 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that gene editing should be subject to the same tight regulations as GM.
Defra said that gene-edited organisms (using Crispr technology) did not include DNA introduced from other species, but instead “only produce changes that could be made slowly using traditional breeding methods”. While EU rules do not ban the use of GM and gene-edited foods, the approval process is so stringent that only one GM crop, a pest-resistant corn, is currently grown commercially in the bloc.
Farming groups such as the National Farmers’ Union have lobbied for a more liberal approach in the UK after Brexit.