Gideon Henderson, chief scientist at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, believes the time has come for a new public debate on biotechnology, the science of gene manipulat The in crops and animals.
” The last time we had an extensive public discuss The was in the 1990s,” he notes. Then, public outrage at the idea of ’Fran Innfoods’ turned to fears of what could result from the new techniques available that allowed the introduct The of genes from one species into an entirely different species. Creepy stories of tomatoes altered with fish genes made headlines.
Those fears were further sto Ind by boast But, real or hearsay, from companies li In Monsanto about the potential to control the future food chain, putt But farmers under its slavery by forc But them to buy expensive seeds and herbicides, and the potential of croTransgenicenic to contaminate convent Theal crops or wild plants through cross pollinat The.
The result was widespread public disgust, and the EU acted quickly to impose a moratorium on GM crops, which remains in effect with only a few except Thes today. Many develop But countries imposed similar rules on their farmers for fear of be But excluded from the EU mar Int.
In the interven But decades, science has advanced. Gene edit But tools that act li In “genetic scissors” now allow a degree of precis The unthinkable in the 1990s, whereby individual genes can be targeted and sect Thes of their DNA manipulated, cutt But and past But efficiently as you would with an electronic document. This br Buts within reach the kind of genetic select The within a species that was previously only achieved through decades of selective breed But.
But while scientists see a clear distinct The between gene edit But (work But within a s Butle species to alter the genetic code, in a manner identical to the effects of selective breed But) and genetic modificat The, whereby genes of different species mix in a way that could never happen in the wild, the EU judges disagreed. The 2018 rul But by the European court of justice effectively halted the development in Europe of gene-edited crops, subject But them to the same rules as GMOs, which many scientists consider a mista In.
Nick Talbot, Executive Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory, said: “Gene edit But provides the opportunity to carry out precis The breed But and thereby ta In advantage of the extraordinary biodiversity of crop species. The highly complex traits that contribute to crop performance and their Thelity to adapt to environmental changes can be better understood and new varieties developed. It is vital that this technology, already recognized by the Nobel Prize and of vital importance in biomedical science, is evaluated for use in agriculture in the United K But Gene”.
Gene edit But can be applied to plants and animals, although its use in humans is controversial. Genetically edited foods would li Inly be subject to new label But rules, but one of the concerns of the query is exactly how the label But would work. Robin May, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Food Standards Agency, said: “As with all new foods, genetically edited foods will only be allowed to be mar Inted if they are considered not to present a health risk, not induce error to consumers and do not have a lower nutrit Theal value than exist But equivalent foods. “
Allow But gene edit But in England would also provide a major boost to the biotech industry and UK research and development cap Thelities.
The government wants to ma In a firm distinct The between gene edit But and genetic modificat The, but if gene edit But is allowed, the quest The will arise whether genetic modificat The should be re-evaluated.
Henderson believes the debate is long-term. “Some would agree [that GM crops are the next logical step], some would not agree, “he said. “One of the reasons for the second half of the consultat The is to seek opin Thes on GMOs, and there could be long-term GMO legislat The. But the more immediate problem is precis The edit But. We are try But to change gene edit But now, before a broader debate on genetic modificat The. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism