A message has been sent today to the UK Parliamentary Community, drawing their attention to a proposed Amendment to the UK Agriculture Bill, now in the Committee stage in the House of Lords.Members are being asked : Please reject the proposal to deregulate gene-edited crops, foods and animals.The new Agriculture Bill is making its way through Parliament. An amendment has been proposed (https://publications.
parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/ 58-01/112/5801112(i).pdf) that would give the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (currently George Eustice) the power to change the definition of a genetically modified organism (GMO) and re-classify many forms of genome editing as non-GM.
Please reject this amendment as anti-democratic and contrary to the science underpinning gene-editing technology.
The amendment to de-regulate gene editing, an artificial laboratory-based genetic modification procedure, is amendment number 275 of the Agriculture Bill – Marshalled List of Amendments. It has been changed to add the words between asterisks**:
(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations modify the definitions contained in Part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in relation to products of breeding techniques **for agricultural purposes** where nucleic acid changes could have occurred naturally or through traditional breeding methods.”
Member’s explanatory statement:
To enable the Secretary of State to make changes to the Environmental Protection Act 1990, as it applies in England, in relation to breeding techniques after the UK leaves the EU. This would allow for regulation of new precision breeding techniques compatible with international definitions.
If the amendment passes, it would mean that these gene-editing genetic modification techniques will no longer be regulated (meaning no safety checks or GM labelling once on the market) and could be used on our farms and in our food without our knowledge or consent.
The language of the amendment lacks transparency
It is misleading that neither genetic modification nor gene editing is mentioned in the amendment.
In fact, to be absolutely clear, the title of part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, referred to in the amendment above, is ‘Genetically Modified Organisms’.
Thus the proposal involves changing the “definition” of a genetically modified organism (GMO) as specified in the Environmental Protection Act.
The aim of this change
This proposal therefore aims to exempt gene editing and other new genetic modification techniques from the current regulations governing GMOs so that the products of these techniques (crops, foods, and animals) will not be subjected to safety checks or labelling as they are now.
To clarify, nucleic acid means DNA or RNA. The “changes” to DNA and RNA referred to in the amendment are brought about through genetic engineering (including gene editing), whereas “Traditional breeding methods” are the kind of natural breeding methods that have been safely used for thousands of years.
However, contrary to the wording of the amendment, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the kinds of changes brought about by gene editing “could have occurred naturally or through traditional breeding methods”.
On the contrary, there is plenty of experimental evidence that the changes brought about by gene editing are different in type and frequency from the genetic changes occurring in natural breeding – potentially resulting in serious consequences such as unexpected toxicity or allergenicity.
* For a list of studies showing unintended damage (mutations) to DNA brought about by gene editing, see (https://gmwatch.org/en/news/
In addition, “Precision breeding” has no legal or scientific definition. This wording is vague and misleading. Gene-editing techniques are not precise. Nor are they breeding techniques.
The amendment applies to food, crops, and animals
An important point to note is that the recent addition of “for agricultural purposes” to the wording of the amendment, makes it clear that any change in the definition of a GMO via this amendment would apply to all agricultural uses – from seeds to our food and animal feed supply, and even to farm animals themselves.
Please reject the amendment. If gene editing is truly the game-changer that those proposing the amendment claim, it should be debated fully in Parliament in a democratic manner so that a variety of points of view can be heard and considered.CITIZEN ACTION :https://www.gmfreeze.org/
current-actions/ask-ministers- to-reject-plans-to-deregulate- genome-editing/Further information : www.gmwatch.org
– Amarjeet S Bhamra