But Scottish minister says, “We will be maintaining Scotland’s GM free crop status"
NOTE: An earlier version of this comment wrongly implied that the consultation is restricted to England. This is not the case: While any de-regulation of GM foods would happen in England, people from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are encouraged to take part in the consultation.
The story below says Scotland may soon be “forced to accept the marketing, sale and free circulation” of GM foods if England changes its laws on these foods following the public consultation on gene editing. Wales, though it's not mentioned in the story, could be in the same position. People in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are encouraged to participate as any change in the law will affect them.
Meanwhile Brexit has led to unprecedented disruption for UK food exports. Scottish fishing businesses look as if they will be decimated, among other agrifood disruption. The BBC’s economics editor Faisal Islam reported on Twitter that according to Seafood Scotland, "new bureaucratic non tariff barriers" are contributing to a "perfect storm" for Scottish seafood exports, resulting in the potential "destruction of a centuries old market which contributes significantly to Scottish economy".
And for what? So that the UK can diverge from EU standards. The only example of this that Faisal Islam gives is gene editing, which the DEFRA chief scientist has already admitted is just the thin edge of the wedge — if gene-editing is OK'd, ALL GMOs will be next up for consideration.
Meanwhile Northern Ireland will be under the EU single market, so English goods will have to abide by EU standards. Currently that means that any GMOs, including gene-edited ones, will have to have EU approval and be labelled.
As GM Freeze commented on Twitter, the UK government's obsession with GM is a recipe for "trade chaos within the UK".
Brexit: Scotland may be 'forced' to sell GM food if England changes law
By Xander Richards
The National, 7 Jan 2021
Scotland may soon be “forced to accept the marketing, sale and free circulation” of genetically modified food as England looks to change its own laws in the area post-Brexit, the Scottish Government has warned.
The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has today launched a public consultation on the use of gene editing on both livestock and arable crops.
Gene editing (GE) is slightly different from genetic modification (GM). While the latter involves inserting new genes into a DNA strand, GE involves the cutting and removing of undesirable parts of genes [GMW: This is untrue. Gene editing can involve insertion of DNA and genes.]
Neither technology is allowed under EU law, which classifies both as genetic modification. [GMW: This is untrue. Gene editing and older-style GM are allowed but have to go through a process of regulation and approval. Individual member states can opt out of GMO cultivation in case of cultivation approvals by the EU – but new cultivation approvals haven't happened for many years.] However, Brexit means the UK no longer needs to "slavishly follow" those "notoriously restrictive and politicised" restrictions, according to Environment Secretary George Eustice.
The Defra consultation is likely to mean England will open itself up to GE food. Boris Johnson vowed on his first day as Prime Minister to “liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules”.
Although the consultation is explicitly not UK-wide, the Internal Market Bill’s “non-discrimination clause” means that Scotland’s Government will be powerless to bar goods produced in England from being sold north of the Border.
Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Ben Macpherson said this “is an example of why we believe the UK Internal Market Act removes our competency to make decisions on the marketing of products in a devolved area”.
Macpherson said his Government’s “policy on the cultivation of GM crops has not changed”, adding: “While any definition change outlined in their consultation would not in legal terms extend to Scotland, the UK Internal Market Act would force Scotland to accept the marketing, sale and free circulation of products in Scotland, which do not meet the standards set out in the Scottish regulations.
“We will be maintaining Scotland’s GM free crop status, in line with our commitment to stay aligned to EU regulations and standards, and have made our views known to UK Ministers.”
The Scottish Greens also hit out at the UK Government, saying it had taken “less than a week” for the Tories in London to “launch a dangerous deregulatory agenda”.
Scottish Greens food and farming spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP added: “Opening a fresh pandora’s box of corporately controlled genetic modification will not benefit Scottish agriculture.”
In doing so Ruskell echoed The Soil Association (SA), which also warned that Brexit shouldn't be used "to pursue a deregulatory agenda".
Gareth Morgan, head of farming and land use policy at the SA, said: "Gene editing is a 'sticking plaster' - diverting vital investment and attention from farmer-driven action and research which could be yielding results, right now.
"Consumers and farmers who do not want to eat or grow genetically modified crops or animals need to be offered adequate protection from this. The focus needs to be on how to restore exhausted soils, improve diversity in cropping, integrate livestock into rotations and reduce dependence on synthetic nitrogen and pesticides."
The creators of the first GE tool, known as Crispr-Cas9 "genetic scissors", Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, were last year awarded a Nobel Prize for their discovery. The development was hailed as "revolutionary".
Other voices in the industry welcomed the UK Government’s plans, with the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) president, Andrew McCornick, saying: “As the UK has now left the EU, there is an important opportunity for our regulators to take an open-minded approach to the possibilities presented by these world-leading technologies, as a potentially significant means of crop and livestock improvement.”
However, McCornick added: “Any significant divergence in approach to gene editing [in England] would have implications for the UK Internal Market and, therefore, the effectiveness or otherwise of Common Frameworks and/or the UK Internal Market Bill.”