Government to pave the way for gene editing

The focus will be on plants produced by genetic technologies, where genetic changes could have occurred naturally or could have been a result of traditional breeding methods.

Rules for producing gene-edited crops will become aligned with conventional breeding methods for research and development into plants, but scientists will be required to notify Government of any research trials.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) chief scientific advisor Gideon Henderson said: “Gene editing technologies provide a more precise way of introducing targeted genetic changes – making the same types of changes to plants and animals that occur more slowly naturally or through traditional breeding.

“These tools enable us to harness the richness of natural variation to build better crops, speeding up a process humans have done through breeding for hundreds of years. There are exciting opportunities to improve the environment, and we can also produce new varieties that are healthier to eat and more resistant to climate change.”

Scientific approach

With the UK now outside of the EU, the Government are now free to set its own rules for the future of food production, opening up opportunities to ‘adopt a more scientific and proportionate approach to the regulation of genetic technologies’.

Its first step will be to change the rules relating to gene editing, in a bid to cut red tape and make research and development easier.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that nature has provided. It is a tool that could help us to tackle some of the biggest challenges that we face – around food security, climate change and biodiversity loss.