NEWS: NIAB welcomes Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act

23 Mar 2023
Wheat growing in a field
Crop research organisation NIAB has welcomed today’s announcement that Royal Assent has been granted to a new legislative framework which is set to accelerate the development of higher-yielding, more nutritious and climate-resilient crops in England.

NIAB chief executive Professor Mario Caccamo said:

“The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act brings our rules into line with other countries around the world, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Brazil and Argentina, by taking the products of more precise breeding techniques such as gene editing out of the scope of the restrictive rules applied to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), where those products could have occurred spontaneously in nature or as a result of conventional breeding methods.

“It follows the introduction in April 2022 of a simplified regulatory process for conducting field trials of precision bred crops, which has already stimulated new research activity across a range of crop species and traits. These include the development of wheat with improved food safety, oilseeds with enriched Omega-3 oils, tomatoes with enhanced vitamin content, and barley with the potential to improve livestock productivity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The new regulatory framework confirmed today should provide a more straightforward route to market for innovations like these. Gene editing offers significant opportunities to support healthier, safer and more sustainable farming and food production systems, at a time when such advances are urgently and increasingly needed.

“While Royal Assent represents a significant milestone, however, it is not the end of the process. The Act itself provides a framework for more detailed implementing rules to be introduced through secondary legislation over the coming months. To deliver on its objectives for research, investment and innovation, the Government must ensure that these arrangements are proportionate to the scientific evidence of risk, and do not single out these techniques for disproportionate or unnecessary requirements which go above and beyond those currently applied to conventionally bred plant varieties,” finished Professor Caccamo.