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Government response to gene editing consultation

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There has been widespread national coverage of our announcement of new plans to unlock the power of gene editing, including in BBC News, The Times, the Telegraph, The Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Financial Times, Bloomberg and Horticulture Week.

The news also featured on BBC Farming Today and the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, which featured an interview with Defra Chief Scientific Adviser Gideon Henderson who outlined the benefits of gene editing technologies for the environment.

Gene editing is a tool that makes plant breeding more precise and efficient so we can breed crops that are more nutritious, resistant to pests and disease, more productive and more beneficial to the environment, helping farmers and reducing impacts on the environment.

Leaving the EU allows the UK to set our own rules, opening up opportunities to adopt a more scientific and proportionate approach to the regulation of genetic technologies. Part of the government response to the gene editing consultation sets out how we plan to pave the way to enable use of gene editing technologies on plants, where genetic changes could have occurred naturally or could have been a result of traditional breeding methods.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that nature has provided. It is a tool that could help us in order to tackle some of the biggest challenges that we face – around food security, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Outside the EU, we are able to foster innovation to help grow plants that are stronger and more resilient to climate change. We will be working closely with farming and environmental groups to ensure that the right rules are in place.

The government will consider the appropriate measures needed to enable gene edited products to be brought to market safety and responsibly. In the longer term, this will be followed by a review of England’s approach to genetically modified organism (GMO) regulation more broadly.

We are committed to the very highest standards of environmental and food safety in the UK, and there will be no weakening of our strong good safety standards. Gene edited foods will only be permitted to be marketed if they are judged to not present a risk to health, not mislead consumers, and not have lower nutritional value than their non-genetically modified counterparts.

You can read the government response to our consultation here.

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