The UK government is to relax the regulation of gene-edited crops to enable commercial growing in England. The plants are to be tested and assessed in the same way as conventional new varieties.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said that he would be working closely with farming and environmental groups to help grow plants that are stronger and more resilient to climate change. “Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that nature has provided. It is a tool that could help us tackle some of the biggest challenges that we face.”
As a first step, legislation will be passed later this year to do away with the need for scientists to apply for a license to carry out open-air trials of a gene-edited crop that could have been produced through traditional cross-breeding.
Currently, the approvals process can take up to two months and cost several thousand pounds. The more significant change will take place next year when legislation will be brought forward to enable simple gene-edited crops to be regulated in the same way as any new variety for commercial development. The government is reviewing what measures it would need to bring in to maintain consumer choices, such as labeling and traceability.
In the longer term, ministers will review England’s approach to regulation covering all genetically modified organisms. This includes changes that might allow the commercial development and farming of gene-edited and genetically modified animals. Such animals can be made to be more productive, resistant to some diseases, and even better able to withstand hot weather.
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