UK considers allowing gene editing in agriculture

  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 […]
Tue 12/01/2021

 

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.