Viewpoint: UK proposal to break from EU CRISPR rules could unleash plant breeding ‘gold rush’

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The agriculture bill before the House of Lords [June 10] offers a chance for plant breeders to make safer, more productive crops that need fewer chemicals. Britain has a long track record of safe and efficient plant breeding but the industry is unable to use the latest techniques because of a rogue decision by the European Union in 2018.

A proposed amendment to the bill would allow the government to consult on whether to use the same definition of a genetically modified organism (GMO) as most of the rest of the world. Doing so would exempt 90 per cent of crops produced by the new and precise method known as genome editing.

Related article:  CRISPR used to cure HIV in mice. Will it lead to new treatments for humans?

If the government permits itself to consult on making this simple change we may see a gold rush of plant breeding projects to this country, generating employment while making crops more competitive, wildlife-friendly, nutrient-rich and with fewer emissions. If we don’t, our farmers will be stuck with more chemicals, less biodiversity and uncompetitive crops.

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