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, NFU Vice President, Tom Bradshaw explains.
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. This approach is already used in several countries around the world and it is one that we support.
Responding to the government’s consultation on future regulation, we at the NFU believe that farmers should have the choice to access the best tools available to enable a resilient and innovative British farming industry.
Gene editing offers huge opportunities for farmers and this consultation has provided room 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 science, enable diverse and accessible innovation, empower public sector research organisations to drive development and allow investment in products for the UK market.
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.
And, it is 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.
The government consultation focuses on stopping certain gene editing organisms from being regulated in the same way as genetic modification (GM), as long as they could have been produced naturally or through traditional breeding.
NFU members can read the NFU's final response to the consultation here.
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