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NFU UK cautiously welcomes progress on future regulation of gene editing

23 March 2021
National Farmers Union

The NFU believes new precision breeding techniques, such as gene editing, could protect crops and animals from pests and disease, help deliver net zero and allow farmers to produce more home-grown food.

The UK government has begun consulting stakeholders on the future regulation of gene-edited organisms, lobbying to stop certain gene-edited organisms from being regulated in the same way as genetically modified (GM) organisms are, as long as they could have been produced naturally or through traditional breeding.

The NFU says that farmers should have the choice to access the best tools available to enable a resilient and innovative British farming industry.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “The underlying principle of this consultation is that some new breeding techniques such as gene editing are not the same scientifically as genetic modification (GM) and should therefore not be regulated in the same way, an approach already used in several countries around the world and one the NFU supports.

“Gene editing offers huge opportunities for farmers and this consultation has provided an opportunity for lively debate among our membership. We believe gene editing could help address pest and disease pressures in our crops and livestock, increase resilience in the event of extreme weather, as well as reducing our impact on the environment through a more efficient use of resources. This would support our ambitions to become net zero by 2040, allowing farmers to farm sustainably and profitably.

“We recognise that gene editing technology on its own will not be a silver bullet and if the government is to make a success of gene-editing, the regulation must be fit for purpose and robust. It needs to be based on robust science, enable diverse and accessible innovation, empower public sector research organisations to drive development and allow investment in products for the UK market.

“And it’s vital that the UK is still able to trade with the EU and that the internal UK market remains functional should England take a different approach to regulating new precision breeding techniques. Government must analyse the implications and discuss the issues in detail with its counterparts in other countries as well as with all parts of the UK supply chain as a matter of urgency. Above all, it must take responsibility for the policy and communication needed to inform the public to give them confidence in the proposed regulation.

“If we are to deliver the ambitions we have for British farming, the use of new and exciting tools that science offers will ensure farmers can continue to produce sustainable, climate-friendly food well into the future.”

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