A new amendment to Agriculture Bill for UK to break away from restrictive EU rules for gene editing. The APPG on Science & Tech in Agriculture is seeking for an amendment in the Lords stage of Ag BIll to enable gene editing - by redefining GMOs.

In the EU approval for any GMO crops starts in the EU, so it mean that approval will come under direct UK control. Gene editing is seen by many as sufficiently different from GMO technologies to warrant a different approval system.

Only one type of GM crop seed, Monsanto’s 810 maize, has commercial approval in Europe, in line with the EU’s 'precautionary' approach to biotechnology in food and agriculture. Any GM imports are subject to strict safety assessments imposed on a case-by-case basis.

Boris going for Brexit talk 27/07/19 Manchester (Commentary from New Scientist)

“… liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules…”

Current EU rules mean that the UK can grow and sell any genetically modified crop that has been shown to be safe for consumption. However, GM plants are only currently grown in the UK for research purposes, not for food. This isn’t down to EU rules – it’s more due to an unwillingness to market GM foods to a population that has been resistant to the idea in the past.

In the wake of Johnson’s speech, plant scientists have expressed concern over proposals to weaken the current EU rules, as these ensure safety. Any change to such rules would be unlikely to tackle the wider issue of anti-GM public opinion.

Read more: We can’t trick people into accepting genetically modified foods

“… let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world…”

The UK has a relatively strong agricultural research base and, in 2014, a UK trial successfully cultivated GM blight-resistant potatoes. None of this has been done in opposition to the EU, which approved this and a subsequent trial, currently under way at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich.

It has been estimated that growing a GM pest-resistant crop like this in the UK could save about £60 million a year in pesticide use, but there aren’t any specific EU regulations stopping this from happening. It remains to be seen if the UK really does come out in support of GM crops after Brexit, or whether we have been using the EU as an excuse all this time.

Pressure Group

A new group called 'Consumer Choice Center (CCC) have produced report 'Gene Revolution on Post Brexit Britain - How Britain can become a Bioscience powerhouse'. They claim the UK could prove that food can become cheaper. Is that what we want?

CCC are a new US funded organisation with most of its income from US right-wing plutocrat Charles Koch, who funds a network of professionals who operate under his ‘culture’ of Market Based Management and ideology of unrestrained corporate power. CCC set up in Brussels in 2017, with clear aim to 'reduce regulation'.

But scientists wont be flocking to Britain - according to Nobel Laureate who discovered graphene. They will be going the other way, because of the turmoil

GMOs (Chap 10)

There is major concern at the way agriculture around the world has been 'privatised' and is now in the hands of just three major corporations. I make clear the distinction between companies (smaller family friendly - as its name implies 'breaking bread') and 'faceless corporations. One of the most worrying aspect of this is the ownership of seeds, probably the world's greatest resource. Big chemical corporations bought up lots of seed companies in the 1980s to gain control. Seeds of Resistance
Part of the corporate takeover enabled them to narrow down the variety of seeds on sale and implant new traits - in particular by 'genetic modification' (GM). Many people were - and are - concerned about this. And there are many aspects of concern, but as time has gone on, two of the major concerns - corporate control and food safety - have moved on. Because the cost of this technology has fallen dramatically, many other organisations - particularly in the public sector, can now use the technology. So a wider range of traits are being trialled. There is an issue here as to whether public funded products should receive reward - or just give them away as we have in the past.
Ruling in India says Monsanto loose the right to patent seeds. They can have royalties, just as all plant breeders can, but 'not the key genetic material, which would be available to the public for further research and development.' The ruling is a boost to domestic seed companies that used Monsanto’s gene to prepare Bt Cotton seeds for farmers, and will seriously curb the ability of multinationals to establish a seed monopoly in India.
We should also be collecting and 'banking' our own local seeds. See Scotland the Bread and my own Seeds4Scotland aimed to encourage schools to collect seeds for the future.

EU Latest

CRISPR passes safety test although some say new EU Health Commissioner got off on the wrong foot. Stella Kyriakides told that her “priority is to gather more information” on gene editing and we will be preparing a study on new genomic techniques, foreseen for spring 2021”. The design of such a study is important and is put out to wide consultation, 70% from industry 12 % NGOs.

EU Ministers consider updating GM regs after ECJ ruling on gene editing. Farmers Guardian’s 'Ploughing Through Brexit' podcast: “There was a positive European Council meeting of Agriculture Ministers from around Europe a couple of weeks ago, where they recognised the decision by the ECJ was scientifically unjustified and would mean less research and less investment here in Europe. They are not disagreeing with the ECJ ruling, saying it suggests they need to look again at the GM legislation. The regulations should be flexible enough to allow new ways of doing plant breeding to come forward rather than blocking them in the way the current regulations have blocked GM.”

Netherlands are making a proposal to amend GMO legislation n the EU. They recommend "a set of criteria to replace the list of techniques" (set out in an Annex); This would bring them up to date with newer technologies developed over the last 20 years. It would help public research bodies. In the UK, some of these technologies are "valuable for research on abiotic stress tolerance, disease resistance, aspects of plant development, nitrogen use efficiency, and food and feed quality."

It would also mean that the drive for Brexit, by some, because of present EU GMO laws, would be lessoned.


The main concern - that GMOs are 'Frankenstein' foods, has proved to be unfounded. Despite billions of tonnes grown and consumed, there is not a single illness shown to be related. 88% of scientists consider 'GM safe'. One farmer was killed - when a heavy sack of GM corn fell on him. This is not a sick joke, but shows where the greater dangers lie for farmers - moving objects. 30-40 UK farmers are killed each year from moving objects (inc animals). That is what we should be shouting about.
GMO Blight resistant potatoes in Uganda
Lack of Golden Rice uptake may be due to poor performance. Big NGOs meet in posh hotel in last ditch effort to stop Golden Rice.
'Evil GE' versus 'eco-friendly organic' not quite so straightforward
This paste sold for 3 years without any complaint - until Prince Charles speech in 1999. See book for more
Do GMO crops increase yields? New mega study says yes.

Genetic Editing

Gene Editing s somewhat different from genetic modification. GMOs are generated through the transgenic introduction of foreign DNA sequences and 'genome-edited crops' (GECs) generated through precise editing of an organism's native genome. In other words GMOS can involve genes from other species - which many see as 'unnatural', wheres Gene editing involved gene sequences from same species, cut and pasted with great precision - more natural. Some say that the technoques are sufficiently different, that they warrant different systems of approval, and that perhaps GE needs no specific approval at all.
Chequers 'common rule book' will not stop UK diverging from the EU on gene editing regulation,, according to Minister. "This follows a letter, signed by the NFU, CLA and TFA, as well as a number of professors, sent following a ruling by the European Court of Justice (below) which declared gene editing (GE) should be governed by the same regulations as genetic modification (GM)." This implies the 'Common Rule Book' is not completely 'common' and is open to UK translation.
Latest EU judgement (July 18) says random mutagenesis - is OK, while 'precision editing' is a 'GMO' and therefore borderline illegal. It is like saying doctors can use machete but not scalpel. This was a ruling made by European Court of Justice (ECJ - the one Brexiteers want to avoid), although it is hard to see what it has to do with justice. European plant Science Organisation takes a dim view saying it is "contrary to scientific evidence". Gene editing differs from previous genetic modification in that it involves only the DNA of the host crop, and does not involve introducing DNA from another source. Nevertheless the EU judgment says they are the same.
At around £30m for approval of such crops, only large agribusiness can afford this. By extending those costs to crops created by gene-editing techniques, "many universities, startups and not-for-profit groups will be priced out of the market even though they are seeking to develop innovative ways to tackle world hunger and to avoid the worst consequences of climate change". Observer
Gove promises that scientists and farmers would be freed from a European court ruling that had the effect of halting the use of food produced using the technology
Fish Oil plants
Where GM meets GE Plans to start sowing two GE lines of Camelina plants follow official approval of Rothamsted’s application to grow GM varieties of Camelina plants engineered to accumulate omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), a form of lipid that are also known as omega-3 fish oils, in their seeds. Omega oils are like fish oils so is a way of obtaining them without depleting our fish stocks. While GM plants require approval before they can be grown in the field, GE varieties do not necessarily. The crucial difference is between mutations that incorporate DNA from a different species, transgenes, and those that do not. The GM Camelina incorporates new (algal) genes; the GE varieties involve only changes (losses) in the plant’s DNA material.
More on my GMO debate site
We should adopt a more balanced attitude to GM, approving each trait as to whether it is a 'public good'. The book outlines the issues surrounding a number of possible traits - eg potato blight resistance, and vitamin A in rice, being introduced to crops.