The UK Government has begun dismantling the safety net of public protections and appears determined to create a GMO free-for-all
EXCERPT: Details of GMOs released under the new rules will not be made public – farmers could be growing their crops next door to an experimental GM version of the same plant and they would not know about it until something went wrong.
Safeguards under threat
GM Freeze, 15 Mar 2022
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The UK Government has begun dismantling the safety net of public protections and appears determined to create a GMO free-for-all. Our food, our farms and the natural environment are under threat. It’s time to get involved and help defend the sensible safeguards of effective regulation.
In 2021, the UK Government held a consultation on plans to remove plants and animals created using experimental new GM techniques from the scope of the GMO regulations that protect our food, our farms and the natural environment. The public responded with a resounding NO, but the Government is pushing on regardless.
A statutory instrument** (SI) has just been passed that changes GMO regulations by:
* Creating a new class of GMO plants that “could have occurred naturally” or through a list of techniques that are legally classed as traditional breeding methods.
* Allowing these GMOs to be released for any purpose other than “marketing” without proper safety checks or any measures to prevent escape and contamination.
More on the statutory instrument
No criteria have been published for how to determine which genetic changes could have occurred in other ways. A Government committee is said to be working on non-statutory guidelines but there will be no requirement for GM developers to follow them. To make matters worse, a recent analysis raises serious concerns about conflicts of interest on this key committee.
The change will only apply in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have much more GM-sceptical Governments but that doesn’t mean they won’t be affected. Pollen and seed don’t respect national boundaries any more than they turn left at a roundabout!
Perhaps most worrying of all, Government Ministers have made it clear that they see this change as just the beginning. They want to open the UK’s door wide to all forms of genetic engineering and we need to act now to have any hope of stopping them.
Our view of the Government’s approach
Classifying GMOs on the basis of what other ways they might have been created (in a parallel universe?) makes no sense – scientifically or legally. This was very clear in responses to the consultation, in which even organisations that strongly support GMOs criticised this approach.
GMOs can spread easily, contaminating crops growing nearby and getting into the food chain or disrupting the ecosystem.
Details of GMOs released under the new rules will not be made public – farmers could be growing their crops next door to an experimental GM version of the same plant and they would not know about it until something went wrong.
The Government claims that the new law is designed to support field trials but the wording will actually allow anyone to release these types of GMO as long as they don’t plan to sell what they grow.
You can watch recordings of the SI debates by a committee of MPs on Wednesday 2 March and by the House of Lords on Monday 14 March (from 21:16:45 or navigate via the Agenda tab).
** A statutory instrument (SI) is a form of secondary legislation. The Government uses SIs to change the law quickly because they don’t get much scrutiny or debate.
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