Last week, DEFRA unveiled plans to deregulate gene editing techniques, claiming that this will unlock their power to increase food security and better protect the environment. However, the government’s decision contradicts the overwhelming public support for continuing to regulate gene-edited organisms as GMOs; support which is evidenced in the summary of responses to the consultation.
The consultation received a total of 6,440 responses, but more than half of responses (3,904 in total) were not considered. This is because Defra identified these responses as coming from supporters of ‘campaigns’ which all favoured regulation, including those individual responses that were based on the stock answers provided by the Landworkers’ Alliance (see also page 43 of the summary report).
Despite this, the consultation analysis – which was published 4 months later than was promised – still shows that most individuals (88%) and businesses (64%) favour continued regulation. The majority of public sector bodies and academic institutions that participated in the online consultation (35 in total) support deregulation and are widely cited by the government for doing so, but public sector bodies and academic institutions only make up 0.5% of total responses. Government is thus ignoring public opinion and the opinion of farmers, growers, and other land-based workers over the views of a minority with vested interests.
What could deregulation look like?
The published government plans for deregulation include:
- The intention to introduce a statutory instrument by the end of this year which will remove the requirement for a license for researchers wishing to conduct field trials of gene-edited crops.
- Followed by primary legislation to change the definition of genetic modification to exclude gene-editing from current regulations.
- “In the longer term” there will also be a review of the wider framework of UK regulations in relation to other types of genetically modified organisms.
(Source: Summary by Beyond GM)
The current discussions should also be placed within the context of wider calls by the UK government for a “bonfire of red tape” and a far-reaching deregulation agenda.
A big thank you to our LWA members and supporters
Miranda Geelhoed, Policy and Campaigns Coordinator for the Landworkers’ Alliance in Scotland said:
“Despite Government having tried hard to manipulate the figures to support their agenda, it can no longer be denied that the UK public is strongly opposing deregulation of gene-editing and other GM techniques.
In particular, we would like to thank the many, many members and supporters who have responded to the consultation or have written to their MPs.
Unfortunately, it has become clear that this debate is far from over. We will continue to fight your corner and appreciate your continued help and support.”