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Changing GMO definition would remove vital safeguards Plans to amend the Agriculture Bill would hand ministers power to deregulate genome editing

Comment (28 May 2020)

Liz O'Neill - liz[at] 07811 211 404

It has come to light that a group of MPs, backed by industry lobby groups, plans to table an amendment to the Agriculture Bill paving the way for ministers to alter the definition of a GMO in UK law. The stated intention of the move is to deregulate the use of genome editing techniques in food and farming. Commenting on the plans, GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill said:

All forms of genetic engineering are prone to errors and unexpected impacts while even the smallest genetic changes can cause complex and far reaching changes. Regulation is a safeguard, not a ban, and it would be foolhardy to give new techniques with no history of safe use free rein in our food and on our farms.

The UK’s current definition of a GMO, based on European Directives, is clear and compatible with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Any change would create a barrier to trade with the EU and potentially cause chaos across the UK itself as agriculture is devolved and the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all take a more sceptical policy approach to GMOs than that favoured by Boris Johnson in Westminster.