Source: Phillip Clarke, UK Farmer’s Weekly, 17 March 2021, photo credit: Time
Urgent discussions are needed with EU member states and the rest of the supply chain to ensure liberalising the use of gene editing in plant and livestock breeding does not have unforeseen market consequences, the NFU says.
The warning is contained in the union’s response to the Defra consultation on gene editing, which closed on Wednesday (17 March).
Defra is seeking to break free from the restrictive approach taken by Brussels and allow gene editing (which involves tweaking the DNA within an organism) to be treated differently to genetic modification (which involves introducing DNA from another organism).
This would pave the way for gene-edited crops to be grown commercially in England.
The NFU is generally positive towards the technology. “We believe gene editing could help address pest and disease pressures in our crops and livestock, increase resilience in the event of extreme weather, as well as reducing our impact on the environment through a more efficient use of resources,” said vice-president Tom Bradshaw.
“This would support our ambitions to become ‘net zero’ by 2040, allowing farmers to farm sustainably and profitably.”