Grower's association criticises "disconnect" between GMO-developing scientists and food industry
An article in The Grocer reports criticism of the UK government's "Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill", which was introduced into Parliament yesterday.
It notes that both growers and campaigners are cautioning against the rapid adoption of new gene-editing technology.
The article quotes Philip Morley, technical executive officer of the British Tomato Growers’ Association, as saying that there had been a lack of consultation with the food sector on the government’s plans – leading to “a disconnect between the scientists, who are doing the research in their labs, and the growers, retailers and consumers”.
He said, “I know it is interesting and it sounds really sexy but this is a major national conversation we need to have if we are going to be pioneers in that technology, not just for fresh produce."
Morley added, “This is the beginning, and is the foot in the door, the opening conversation and if we make a mistake now then that is a mistake that we live with forever."
Morley said, “It is a huge topic, and it will involve every crop, every livestock sector, every human being ultimately when we get into the realm of gene editing humans."
On the topic of GM tomatoes, a GM vitamin D-containing variety of which was hyped in the government's publicity around the new bill, Morley stressed there were still many opportunities to look at natural processes in tomato production to boost nutritional values – something many growers were doing, particularly when it came to using light.
He told The Grocer that these natural explorations could potentially deliver far more benefits than any chemical intervention for human health.
Liz O’Neill, director of GM Freeze, is quoted as warning that unregulated gene editing is “a food crisis in the making” as “gene editing is GM with better PR”.
Soil Association policy director Jo Lewis told The Grocer that the decision to prioritise the bill over the food bill meant the government was “casting about for silver bullets”. She said, “We are deeply disappointed to see the government prioritising unpopular technologies rather than focusing on the real issues – unhealthy diets, a lack of crop diversity, farm animal overcrowding, and the steep decline in beneficial insects who can eat pests.
"Instead of trying to change the DNA of highly stressed animals and monoculture crops to make them temporarily immune to disease, we should be investing in solutions that deal with the cause of disease and pests in the first place.”