Initial reaction to gene editing of crops announcement

Yet to be convinced

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, has announced “New plans to unlock the power of gene editing to help our farmers grow more resistant, more nutritious and more productive crops… as part of the government response to the gene editing consultation”.

According to the UK government press release, “The response sets out how we plan to pave the way to enable use of gene editing technologies, which can help better protect the environment. Gene editing is a tool that makes plant breeding more precise and efficient so we can breed crops that are more nutritious, resistant to pests and disease, more productive and more beneficial to the environment, helping farmers and reducing impacts on the environment….”

In an open letter to George Eustice in March 2021, we set two tests that the UK government consultation on regulation of genetic technologies needed to pass:

  1. Will the (potential) benefits and harms relating to food and farming as a whole have been properly accounted for?
  2. Will the ethical case be clear and robust?

Our initial view? In short, we are yet to be convinced on either count.

Our Executive Director, Dan Crossley, responding to the announcement said:

“This is big news for the future of UK food and farming. I remain disappointed that the government consultation on the regulation of gene editing was so one-sided, with it feeling like a decision had already been made before consultation started. The long-term consequences of this could be profound. We are yet to be convinced that the consultation has passed either of the tests that we set the Secretary of State earlier this year.”