Precision Breeding Bill gains Royal Assent

LinkedIn +

A step forward for new breeding technologies has been made after the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill gained Royal Assent.

The milestone follows a three-month public consultation in 2021 and the bill’s passage through Parliament. The framework is set to accelerate the development of higher-yielding, more nutritious and climate-resilient crops in England. Biotechnology, such as gene editing, has the potential to improve animal health and welfare, combat pest and disease pressures, increase crop resilience, aid biodiversity and help in the development of food with direct benefits to the public.

The news was welcomed by NFU Vice President, David Exwood, who said: “I am delighted that, after working closely with Defra, the Food Standards Agency, parliamentarians, and industry partners to ensure the Bill’s smooth progress, it has passed its final hurdle. Biotechnology is by no means a silver bullet, but having access to more targeted precision breeding tools for our crops and livestock could really help bolster climate-friendly food production and support biodiversity here in Britain.”

Important milestone

Professor Mario Caccamo, chief executive of crop research organisation, NIAB, explained that the Genetic Technology Act brings the UK inline with other countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Brazil and Argentina: “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.”

This view was echoed by APPG chair, Julian Sturdy: “This is an important milestone for genetic innovation in agriculture, opening up the potential for scientists and breeders to help farmers keep pace with demands for increased agricultural productivity and resource-use efficiency, reduced chemical use, and resilience to climate change.

Not the end

Whilst the granting of Royal Assent for the bill is being widely celebrated, the British Society of Plant Breeders warn that this is not the end of the process: “The Act itself provides a framework for subsequent implementing rules to be introduced through secondary legislation, a process expected to take a further 18-24 months. For plant breeders, the most significant of these will be the Food Standards Agency’s plans for a separate approval process for food and feed marketing.”



Share this story:

About Author