Gene editing of British products could cause problems for export to the EU UK news
The UK Food and Beverage Manufacturing Agency warns that “barriers” to the export of English farm food could be “barriers” if genetic editing is allowed.
The government has launched a consultation on whether to give the green light to the process that could allow farmers to grow crops that perform better and reduce the impact on the environment.
The process is severely limited in that EUAfter the European Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that the editing of genes must be subject to the same strict rules as genetic modification.
The Food and Drinks Federation (FDF) welcomed the consultation – but told Sky News that if gene editing is allowed in England it could create barriers for farmers exporting goods to the EU.
Helen Munday, EVS Scientific Director, said: “We believe there are some benefits [to gene editing] But we also have to understand what disadvantages there can be and how we can trade our products.
“If Europe sees it differently, it may mean that there are some barriers to trade in products made this way.”
She added, “We know that gene editing is not classified as genetic modification in other countries, and scientists clearly believe that this is not the right term for it as it can happen in nature.
“But if there is that difference in definition, it needs to be understood. How would that work?”
Gene editing can change the DNA of organisms in farm animals and crops.
Environment Secretary George Eustice says the process could help farmers produce crops that are more resistant to pests, disease, or extreme weather, and produce healthier, more nutritious foods.
The process does not introduce DNA from other species, but rather speeds up the selective breeding process that farmers have been doing for hundreds of years.
Huw Jones, professor of translational genomics for plant breeding at Aberystwyth University, explained that Sky News’ gene editing is different from genetic modification.
He said, “Gene editing is a tool. It uses what is known as molecular scissors that can make targeted changes.
“Genetic change is the movement of whole functioning genes from one organism to another.
“While gene editing makes very targeted changes to an organism’s existing DNA. It doesn’t add new DNA.”
Critics say gene editing is sticking – and instead, money should be focused on better growing techniques.
Essex farmer George Young is against the idea.
He grows wheat, beans and barley on his 1,200-acre farm and said that editing Sky News genes just isn’t necessary.
“If you look at British agriculture over the past 50 to 60 years, we’ve done a lot of things because we thought they were the right things,” he said.
“We are using technology that we do not fully understand and that we do not need.”
In the same county, Farmer and Vice President of the National Farmers’ Union, Tom Bradshaw, wants the introduction of gene editing.
“It should speed up natural selection, it just complements the natural process in the laboratory,” he said.
“It’s much more targeted, so it should accelerate the development of these strains and make them more disease-resistant, which should reduce the amount of artificial inputs we have to use. But in farm animals, too, it could make them more disease-tolerant.”
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says the 10-week consultation will focus on preventing certain gene-editing organisms from being regulated in the same way as genetic modification, an approach that is already being used in countries like the USA, Japan, Australia and Argentina.
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