Biotech Updates

Royal Society: Evidence-led GM Crop Regulation Could Help Tackle Global Food Security and Climate Change Risks

November 15, 2023

A new policy briefing from the Royal Society says that the United Kingdom needs an evidence-led and proportionate regulatory approach for genetically modified (GM) crops to realize the technology's benefits for agriculture, the environment, and human health.

The policy briefing Enabling genetic technologies for food security, led by Professor Jonathan Jones FRS, Group Leader at The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, describes the recent developments in using the GM method for crop improvement. This has seen the technology used in a growing number of countries to enhance resistance to pests and diseases, improve nutrition, and elevate tolerance to heat and drought.

The UK government has passed the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act, which introduced a new framework for regulating gene-edited crops. The Act placed GM crops within a regulatory process inherited from the European Union, requiring extensive scientific and safety trials. These requirements are so expensive that only the largest companies can achieve regulatory approval. Professor Jones argues that this approach is no longer justified, given the evidence from 30 years of commercial use of GM crops.

In the briefing, he stated that GM crops are no more likely to pose unpredictable risks than crops resulting from other breeding technologies. He added that regulation should instead focus on assessing scientifically plausible risks given what is known about the GM trait and the species it was introduced into. “We need to feed people properly without destroying the planet,” said Professor Jones, whose research spans a range of GM applications, including potatoes resistant to late blight disease, which farmers currently spray 15-20 times a year to control.

For more details, read the article on The Royal Society website.

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