Biotech Updates

Study Finds Genome-Edited Foods Found Generally Acceptable by UK Consumers

July 28, 2021

A review was commissioned by the Food Standards Agency to document the consumer acceptance of genome-edited foods in the United Kingdom (UK). The findings reflected that the UK consumers are open to genome-edited foods, as long as they are well-informed that these are thoroughly investigated, assessed, and labeled.

In 2018, the government of the United Kingdom disagreed with the European Court of Justice ruling that genome-edited organisms should be regulated the same way as genetically modified organisms even when the outcome was a product of traditional breeding methods. This led to an interest in reviewing the regulation of genome editing, which requires changing the definition of a GMO in legislation. A review was commissioned to complement a public consultation led by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that ran from January to March 2021 about genetic technologies including a proposal to change the legislation to amend the definition of GMO. The objective of the review was to gather evidence on consumer interests to help inform future food policy. Likewise, it will also help inform communications with consumers if a new genome-edited food policy is introduced.

The findings of the review are:

  • Consumers tended to have low awareness and very low knowledge of genome-edited food.
  • Consumers tend to find genome-edited food more acceptable than GM food as they perceive the former as safer and more natural. They also found GM and genome editing in plants more acceptable compared to animals.
  • Consumers are concerned about the safety risk of genome editing to humans and animals welfare.
  • Consumers were or became more accepting of genome editing when they are more informed, despite existing concerns.
  • Consumers prefer the labeling of "genome-edited" in genome editing foods to inform them of the presence of genome-edited ingredients.
  • Consumers found it appropriate to separately regulate genome-edited foods from GM foods because they are two different techniques.
  • Consumers felt that thorough safety assessments were important, and that animal welfare rules should be strengthened as needed.
  • Consumers want transparent labeling, and reassurance of the thoroughness of regulation and safety assessments if genome-edited foods reach the UK market.

Read the full report by the Food Standards Agency to learn more.

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