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Genetic engineering needs the safety net of robust regulation GM Freeze responds to Defra plans for a high-tech free-for-all

Comment (29 Sep 2021)

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

Responding to the announcement that Environment Secretary George Eustice intends to push ahead with plans to remove new GM techniques (often referred to as gene editing) from the scope of GMO regulations, Liz O’Neill, Director of umbrella group GM Freeze said:

Genetic engineering – whatever you choose to call it – needs to be properly regulated. The UK Government wants to swap the safety net of proper public protections for a high-tech free-for-all but our food, our farms and the natural environment deserve better.

This announcement is described as a response to Defra’s consultation on the regulation of genetic technologies. However, no detail has been made available [at the time of writing] on what George Eustice actually learnt from the exercise. The consultation submissions that GM Freeze has seen raised a wide range of concerns about Defra’s proposals for dismantling GM safeguards, but this announcement suggests the Minister isn’t listening.

Commenting later, after the Summary of responses to the consultation had been published, Liz O’Neill added:

The Government’s consultation on plans to dismantle key food and farming safeguards received an overwhelmingly negative response with at least 88% of public submissions stating their opposition to the plans. Even the research institutes that have a financial interest in the take up of new genetic engineering techniques raised a wide range of concerns so it’s clear that George Eustice needs to think again.

GM Freeze submission to Defra’s Consultation on the Regulation of Genetic Technologies:

GM Freeze and Beyond GM Briefing on key issues in the deregulation of genetic technologies: