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Gene editing creates potential to protect the nation’s environment, pollinators and wildlife - Defra

Consultation on future of gene editing to be launched by Environment Secretary at Oxford Farming Conference.

Plans to consult on gene editing – which could unlock substantial benefits to nature, the environment and help farmers with crops resistant to pests, disease or extreme weather and to produce healthier, more nutritious food – will be set out today (7 January) by Environment Secretary George Eustice in his speech at the Oxford Farming Conference.

The way that plants and animals grow is controlled by the information in their genes. For centuries, farmers and growers have carefully chosen to breed stronger, healthier individual animals or plants so that the next generation has these beneficial traits - but this is a slow process.

Technologies developed in the last decade enable genes to be edited much more quickly and precisely to mimic the natural breeding process, helping to target plant and animal breeding to help the UK reach its vital climate and biodiversity goals in a safe and sustainable way.

Gene editing is different to genetic modification where DNA from one species is introduced to a different one. Gene edited organisms do not contain DNA from different species, and instead only produce changes that could be made slowly using traditional breeding methods. But at the moment, due to a legal ruling from the European Court of Justice in 2018 gene editing is regulated in the same way as genetic modification.

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