Science and farming welcome for Queen's speech

Science agencies and farming organisations welcomed the announcement of measures to provide a more straightforward route to market for seeds and crops using advanced breeding technologies such as gene editing in the Queen’s Speech.

The announcement revealed that the UK Government would bring forward new primary legislation, ‘The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill’, to take certain precision breeding techniques out of the scope of restrictive GMO rules - where the resulting plants could have occurred naturally or through conventional breeding methods.

Following the recent introduction of rule changes to free up experimental field trials of gene edited crops, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) said the announcement marked a further important step towards more science-based and proportionate regulation of technologies such as gene editing, giving a boost to prospects for UK plant science and the development of more sustainable farming systems.

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NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said that precision breeding techniques could deliver benefits for food, agriculture and climate change.

“New technologies, including the likes of gene editing can help positively address some of the big challenges Scottish agriculture faces, including how we respond to the climate emergency and address biodiversity loss,” said Kennedy, hinting at the Scottish Government’s opposition to such technology.

“We firmly believe that precision breeding techniques as a route to crop and livestock improvement could allow us to grow crops which are more resilient to increased pest and disease pressure brought about by our changing climate and more extreme weather events.”

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