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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

The case for regulating Gene Edited crops

Posted 7th February 2016 in Comment

Commenting for an Observer story considering the forthcoming EU decision about whether or not gene editing techniques give rise to GMOs, GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill said:

If this group of genetic engineering techniques escape classification as GM they could be completely unregulated. The crops they produce could find their way into our fields and onto our plates without environmental or food safety risk assessments. They would not be traceable and, without labelling, consumers would have no way to identify and avoid them should they wish to do so.

We hear a lot about the precision of the new methods, but they are all vulnerable to off-target effects of one kind or another and precision isn’t the same as predictability. We know that genes interact with each other in complex ways. Changing the way that one gene is expressed can have an effect on a completely different part of the genome so even if one is successful in altering DNA in exactly the way intended, unexpected effects can still occur.

These techniques have no history of safe use and, because genetic pollution is almost impossible to “mop up”, any problems they do cause will be incredibly difficult to put right.

GM Freeze wants our food to be produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably and allowing these techniques to slip through the regulatory safety net on a legal technicality would do the exact opposite.


Further information on gene editing and the forthcoming European Commission decision can be found at