OF&G (Organic Farmers & Growers) has expressed serious concern over Defra’s introduction of their Genetic Technology Bill that received its first reading in Parliament today.
The new legislation aims to permit genetic modification in UK food production by employing CRISPR-based tools, also known as ‘gene editing’.
“The rushing through of this bill, without rigorous regulation is an alarming development, especially at this time” says Roger Kerr, chief executive of leading UK organic certification body, OF&G (and ORC Trustee).
“It fails to protect consumer choice and neglects to consider the potential for long term damage to the environment and the rural economy.
“It also flies in the face of public opinion that in 2021 revealed that the public was 80% against deregulating the use of experimental GM techniques.
“The Secretary of State has said that this government intends to ‘follow the science’. Yet the implications to biodiversity loss with the unregulated introduction of this technology into our natural ecosystems appears to be of little concern.
“If the widespread depletion of biodiversity from the use of agrochemicals over the last 70 years has taught us anything, it must be that we need to properly assess and regulate the introduction of new technology which ‘hard bakes’ many of the same attributes into a plant’s genetic makeup.”
Mr Kerr adds that despite Government promoting a policy to increase food production, the number of hungry people in the world continues to rise. “This points to quite profound issues in the food system and to how many people are dependent on this fragile system.”
In the face of the current crisis, we must avoid rebuilding a system of over-reliance on ‘too few companies and too few grains’. We don’t need more monoculture methodologies. What scientists and farmers are calling for is whole system change.
OF&G also questions the claims of economic growth that new GMOs are intended to drive, highlighting that the Intellectual Property Rights of patented crops will, in all likelihood, boost profits for the favoured few, with little or no benefit to farmers.
In response to the Bill, OF&G recommend that Government and industry investment should be focused on measures that address the fundamental weaknesses in the food system, protect the natural environment and resolve the alarming volumes of food waste and massive gaps in nutritional security across society.
“Instead, we are seeing a Government heavily investing in supporting systems that secure Intellectual Property of food products of a few well-placed companies, rather than focusing on feeding the people they are elected to protect,” concludes Mr Kerr.
See also: Time for Government to start listening to ordinary people rather than those with a vested interest
Defra unveils ‘plans to unlock power of gene editing’
Our response to the Defra public consultation on Genome editing
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