AHDB and NFU respond to UK government future gene editing regulation

AHBD welcomes the government announcement on Gene Editing (GE). GE applications can mimic natural genetic variation, but with greater precision and speed; technologies like GE can play a pivotal role in increasing the efficiency of crop and livestock production. Not only does it open the opportunity to accelerate the development of crops and livestock in the UK, but also has the potential to reduce the reliance on imported food and livestock feed.

In a statement, the organization claims that changes created by GE are not by default inherently more risky than those introduced by conventional breeding, but stresses that the safety of consumers, animal welfare, and avoidance of environmental damage must be paramount in the appraisal of all technologies, including GE.

The NFU also responded, saying: The government has announced changes to the rules allowing gene editing field trials. This change comes about as the UK no longer has to follow EU rules that regulated gene editing in the same way as genetic modification (GM).

Gene editing is different from Genetic Modification as it does not result in the introduction of DNA from other species and creates new varieties similar to those that could be produced more slowly by natural breeding processes. It is currently regulated in the same way as genetically modified organisms.

Announcing the change, George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 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.”

Responding to the government announcement on future regulation of precision breeding techniques such as gene editing, NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “It is very encouraging to see the government’s view that new precision breeding techniques, such as gene editing, have the potential to offer huge benefits to UK farming, the environment, and the public, and will be vital in helping us achieve our climate change net-zero ambition.”

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