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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

DEFRA issues a free pass on new GM technique Crop created using CRISPR genome editing techniques to be planted without a full risk assessment

Comment (22 May 2018)

Press contact: Liz O'Neill 07811 211 404, liz[at]

DEFRA has given Rothamsted Research consent to plant a new open air field trial of GM camelina plants, including two lines produced using new CRISPR genome editing techniques. The trial application did not include a risk assessment for the CRISPR plants and documents published by Defra indicate that the government department has decided to treat this form of genetic engineering as non-GM rather than waiting for the European Court of Justice to issue a key ruling on the legal status of new GM techniques.

GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill said:

The European Court of Justice is considering the legal status of genome editing and indications to date suggest that the court will rule that the techniques used in this trial DO count as GM. Instead of putting public health and the environment first, DEFRA has handed out a free pass to plant highly experimental genetically engineered crops in open fields without a proper risk assessment.

The inclusion of unregulated techniques isn’t GM Freeze’s only worry with this trial, though. Some of the plants involved produce wax esters intended as an industrial lubricant but which, if eaten by people, can cause diarrhoea and an involuntary discharge of oil from the anus. Rothamsted Research started off trying to persuade us that GM camelina would save the oceans but now they’re referring to it as a “chassis” on which they will produce an array of industrial compounds [1]. GM Freeze wants to help create a world in which everyone’s food is produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably. This approval of this trial is a worrying step in the opposite direction.



[1] Rothamsted Research press release, GM Field Trial Planned, 21 February 2018

GM Freeze, and twenty-five other organistions, submitted a detailed objection to this trial, which can be viewed online at

GM Freeze’s view on the ECJ Advocate General’s opinion on the legal status of mutagenesis can be found online at

GM Freeze is the UK umbrella campaign on GM in food and farming. We are working to help create a world in which everyone’s food is produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably.