Gene-editing amendment to UK agriculture bill withdrawn, delaying farmer access to CRISPR crops

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An amendment tabled in the new UK agriculture bill, designed to allow access to new gene-editing technology, has been withdrawn but the government has pledged to conduct a public consultation on the issue, amid indications that it could eventually offer its support for the technology.

The amendment, withdrawn on Tuesday (28 July) after a lengthy debate in the House of Lords, has stirred up considerable debate in the past few weeks, both over environmental concerns as well as potential ramifications for the future agrifood trade relationship of the UK and the EU.

Despite the withdrawal of the bill, the decision is not quite clear cut just yet, as it does not technically prevent a similar or adapted amendment being reintroduced at a later stage.

Related article:  Talking Biotech: Can genetically engineered cassava help African farmers?

However, there are indications that the UK government is not ready to offer its support for such an amendment right now, before the public consultation has been completed, but is generally looking favorably at gene editing, sources told EURACTIV.

A spokesperson for DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] confirmed to EURACTIV that the government will carry out a public consultation before making any changes to the current approach.

They said that existing GMO regulations will remain in force through the EU Withdrawal Act, but declined to comment further on what exactly this consultation will entail.

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