Genetic Technology Act
The Westminster Government’s Genetic Technology Bill became law on 23 March 2023, setting up mechanisms that will impose untested – and unlabelled – GMOs on the entire UK food chain. The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act only applies directly to England but that won’t stop it having an impact in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The new Act of Parliament:
Creates a new class of “precision bred” GMOs that “could have resulted from traditional processes.”
This approach makes no scientific sense and was roundly rejected in the Government’s own consultation.
Dismantles the safety net of independent risk assessments.
All forms of genetic engineering can go wrong – whatever they are called. The developers should not be left to check their own homework.
Removes everyone’s right to choose.
Food containing genetically engineered organisms that have been re-classified as “precision bred” does not need to be labelled and no measures have to be put in place to prevent contamination across the food chain.
Will allow the creation of GM animals.
There will be some measures to consider animal welfare but Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) nevertheless called the Genetic Technology Bill a significant threat for farmed animals.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
The success of the Bill is deeply disappointing but there is still a huge amount of work to do. Most provisions in the new Act require the creation of additional regulations and GM Freeze will be working hard to persuade ministers and civil servants to build in effective safeguards wherever possible. In particular, we are still pushing for ALL foods created with GM ingredients (including “precision bred” GMOs) to be clearly labelled as such.
Passage of the bill through the House of Commons
- The bill was highlighted in the Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022 and introduced (first reading) on 25 May.
- The bill was briefly debated by MPs, in the House of Commons Second Reading on 15 June. You can watch the debate on BBC iplayer or on Parliament Live.
- A committee of MPs considered the bill in more detail in June and July.
- MPs debated the bill, and a number of proposed amendments, in the Report Stage and Third Reading on 31 October. You can watch the debate on BBC iplayer or read a record of what was said and how MPs voted on TheyWorkForYou’s website (click ‘Next debate’ and ‘Previous debate’ just below the picture to navigate the parts of the debate).
Passage of the bill through the House of Lords
- The Second Reading of the bill in Lords took place on Monday 21 November. This was the first time that peers had debated the bill and concerns were raised about labelling, traceability and more. You can watch BBC Parliament’s coverage of the Lords Second Reading on BBC iPlayer, or read a line by line record on TheyWorkforYou’s website.
- The Lords committee stage was completed in December. You can read the written record on the Parliament website and those in the UK can watch most of the debate on BBC iplayer: First day (12 December) Second day (14 December).
- The Lords report stage took place on Wednesday 25 January. You can read the written record on the Parliament website or watch the debate on Parliament Live.
- The Lords third reading took place on Wednesday 1 February. You can read what was said on TheyWorkforYou‘s website or watch the debate on Parliament Live
Many amendments were proposed by both MPs and peers – virtually all of which would have reduced the harm done by this damaging new legislation. You can read about the amendments that GM Freeze particularly supported in the briefings that we prepared for key stages of debate. However, only few minor improvements got through in the end.
Criticism of the bill from key committees
- The Government-appointed independent Regulatory Policy Committee reviewed the Impact Assessment that was published alongside the bill and gave it a red – not fit for purpose – rating.
- The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee (DPRRC) report on the Genetic Technology Bill raised a concern that the bill included 28 delegated powers, ie there are 28 different parts of the bill that give Ministers the power to decide key details later.
- A report by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution Committee raised similar concerns, noting both its agreement with many recommendations in the DPRRC report and adding that key regulations should be published in draft form by the Government while the Bill is still being considered by peers.This did not happen.
Devolved nation responses
The Welsh Senedd and the Scottish Parliament both refused to approve Legislative Consent motions on the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill. Unfortunately this does not actually have any direct impact on the bill becoming law.
Find out more
- Read the joint briefing we prepared and distributed for the Lords Report Stage, with CLEAR, Friends of the Earth, the Landworkers’ Alliance, Organic Farmers & Growers, Organic Research Centre and Soil Association.
- Read our shared committee stage briefing with Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association, highlighting a few priority amendments.
- Read GM Freeze’s detailed briefing prepared for the Commons Report Stage and Third Reading
- Read GM Freeze’s evidence to the bill committee
- Read a statement from over 90 international scientists and policy experts opposing the use, in the bill, of the term “precision breeding”
- Read a joint statement from 36 civil society organisations (including GM Freeze) raising concerns about the Genetic Technology Bill
- Read a letter from representatives of the organic sector, to then Environment Secretary Rani Jayawardena, highlighting serious concerns about the bill.
Read our briefing on why Gene editing is GM with better PR.
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This page was last updated: 23 March 2023