The government of the United Kingdom plans to modify the regulations governing gene-edited crops in order to allow the technology to be used.

Environment Secretary George Eustice released the ideas as part of the government’s response to the gene editing consultation. The first priority is to reduce red tape and facilitate research and development now that the United Kingdom has exited the European Union.

According to Eustice, the initial focus of gene editing will be on plants.

“It is a tool that might assist us in addressing some of the most pressing issues we face, such as food security, climate change, and biodiversity loss.” We will collaborate closely with farmers and environmental organizations to ensure that the proper laws are in place.”

Gene editing differs from genetic alteration, which involves the introduction of DNA from one species into another. Gene-edited crops create modifications that would be impossible to achieve through standard breeding procedures. A longer-term objective is to examine England’s approach to GMO regulation and animal genome editing.

Gene-edited Crops: Food safety, quality, and standards must be safeguarded.

An examination of the regulatory definitions of a genetically modified creature will determine whether organisms created through gene editing and other genetic technologies can be excluded if they could have been formed through traditional breeding.

The administration assured that food safety requirements would not be lowered. Gene-edited foods will be permitted only if they are determined not to pose a health risk, do not mislead consumers, and do not have a lesser nutritional value than non-genetically modified counterparts.

England will be subject to the rules, with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland free to make their own judgments. The European Commission is also considering altering the rules governing gene editing.

The Food Standards Agency’s top scientific adviser, Professor Robin May, stated that the agency supports providing customers a choice and acknowledges the potential advantages that gene-edited plants and animals may bring to the food chain.

“We are working closely with colleagues in Defra and other key stakeholders both inside and outside of government to ensure that the way we regulate genetic technologies is appropriate and robust, and, most importantly, that it meets our objectives of prioritizing food safety and protecting consumers,” May said.

Any research field experiments must be reported to Defra by scientists. Plant breeding might be used to make plants more resistant to pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Gene-edited Crops: The majority of responses have been positive.

According to Gideon Henderson, Defra’s senior scientific advisor, cultivars that are better to consume and more resistant to climate change can be created.

“Gene editing technologies offer a more precise method of introducing specific genetic alterations — causing the same sorts of changes in plants and animals that occur more slowly naturally or via traditional breeding. “These technologies enable us to leverage the richness of natural variation to produce better crops, speeding up a process that humans have done for hundreds of years via breeding,” he added.

Guy Poppy, a former FSA top scientific advisor and professor of ecology at the University of Southampton, believes genome editing has the potential to enhance agriculture, the environment, and human health.

“However, although I appreciate why Defra proposes a proportionate step-by-step approach, I am concerned that the journey would be lengthy, difficult, and plagued with continuous claims and counter-claims,” Poppy added.

Professor Dale Sanders, director of the John Innes Centre, welcomed the announcement but expressed disappointment that it only applies to research and development.

“The benefits of these technologies will be recognized only if crops grown in this manner can reach supermarkets and customers. It’s disheartening when scientific discoveries don’t result in actual benefits to the foods we eat,” Sanders added.

“Genetic engineering — whatever you want to call it — needs to be properly regulated,” said Liz O’Neill, director of GM Freeze. The UK government wishes to forego the safety net of adequate public safeguards in favor of a high-tech free-for-all, but our food, farms, and natural environment deserve better.”

Gene-edited Crops: Public awareness is low, and future potential is limited.

The FSA issued a poll earlier this year that revealed consumers had very little awareness and knowledge about genome altered food. Despite some reservations, the better informed people were, or became, the more accepting of it they were.

A “POSTnote” is also being written about genome editing, with work set to begin in October. The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) creates peer-reviewed briefings to make scientific information available to the UK legislature.

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