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Gene editing consultation is a ‘positive step’ towards breeding future crops, say farmers

PUBLISHED: 15:43 30 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:43 30 July 2020

National Farmers Union (NFU) vice president Tom Bradshaw said a public consulation on gene editing technology is 'a very positive step' for the industry. Picture: JOHN COTTLE

National Farmers Union (NFU) vice president Tom Bradshaw said a public consulation on gene editing technology is 'a very positive step' for the industry. Picture: JOHN COTTLE

John Cottle/nfu

The announcement of a public consultation on the post-Brexit regulation of precision plant breeding techniques including gene editing has been welcomed as a “positive step” for farmers.

Unlike traditional genetic modification (GM) – which may involve insertion of foreign DNA into an organism – gene editing is a group of technologies which allow scientists and breeders to target and control specific genes already present in a plant species.

Although the European Court of Justice ruled in July 2018 that plants obtained by gene editing should be treated as GM organisms, crop scientists have argued that these techniques should be exempt from the wider ban on GM crops, enabling plant breeders and farmers to employ faster and more efficient ways of producing food sustainably.

READ MORE: Norwich crop scientists demand urgent rethink of EU gene editing rules

Following a debate of the Agriculture Bill in the House of Lords, Defra minister Lord Gardiner said there was a strong case for taking these techniques out of the scope of GM regulation, and announced that the government will launch a public consultation this autumn.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) vice president Tom Bradshaw said: “This is a very positive step. Having robust fit-for-purpose regulation on new breeding techniques is an opportunity to position British farming as a world leader and to showcase sustainable, climate-friendly farming.”


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