The organic food industry has expressed unease over news of Defra’s gene editing

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OF&G (Organic Farmers & Growers) has expressed unease over Defra’s announcement to allow new gene-editing (GE) technologies in the UK, thereby overturning existing EU legislation.

As a UK organic certification body, OF&G would welcome any measure that guarantees benefits for “food security, climate change and biodiversity loss,” as Environment Secretary George Eustice has pointed out. However, the impact that genetic technologies will have on these three key issues is, as of yet, unknown, he said.

Roger Kerr, general manager of OF&G, says that while it is not unexpected, the news leaves countless questions unanswered.

Many of the real concerns raised by OF&G and others during the consultation period were ignored and the lessons learned from the recent consultation are totally imbalanced in their representation and deficient in substance.

“The deregulation of SHGs has long been expected to be a ‘done deal’, but coming at a time when agricultural policy is going through such upheaval, there is little or no evidence that the ‘plaster cast’ sticky “GE’s much vaunted will tackle the problem effectively. current social and environmental emergencies, we are told that will be the case, ”Kerr said.

Proponents of new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) say that new varieties of genetically modified crops “will benefit farmers and reduce impacts on the environment.”

“However, with our biodiversity and environment already under enormous pressure, any new strategy must be fully tested and an independent impact assessment carried out before being released into the natural environment,” Kerr continues.

“As such, OF&G recommends that the handling of genetic material should only be carried out within a strong and fully transparent regulatory framework. The government has a duty to give farmers and buyers a choice; from variety selection to product labeling, similar to the strict regulations organic licensees get year after year.

In the latest announcement, Defra’s chief scientific adviser, Gideon Henderson, says “the planned changes will ease the burden of research and development involving plants. […] to align them with plants grown using traditional breeding methods.

However, OF&G said it failed to mention that genetically engineered organisms are in fact new and patentable, created using “inventive steps” that do not occur in nature.

“In the new world of patented GM crops, intellectual property rights will be extremely important in the food system. We would encourage a public debate on the impact of ever greater corporate control on our food, ”Kerr said.

“The claim that lifting the ban on GMOs ‘will help grow stronger plants that are more resistant to climate change’ is not at all verified, as are the impacts of releasing these organisms into the world. ‘natural environment.

“If the government is genuinely seeking to ‘protect the natural environment’ as it has stated, then there are proven and regulated methodologies for the entire food system, such as organic, which deserve much recognition and support. larger by funding additional research.

“We have had 70 years of agricultural technological innovation that has attempted to manipulate and subvert nature and we are now faced with the harsh realities of this approach. GE is no different. Industrial and intensive agriculture is killing our ecosystems and the deregulation of GMOs will not fix it.

“The government must think beyond a ‘quick fix’ and implement policies that address the root causes of these problems, if we are to prevent the inexorable slide into disaster for our society and our planet.”


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