“These are fantastic results,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson enthused, as politicians across Europe queued up to praise [COVID vaccine] breakthroughs and to re-assure citizens of the robust, science-based regulatory approval systems that are in place to ensure their safety as the vaccines are fast-tracked through the approval process. This is the right thing to do.
However, isn’t this stance inconsistent and hypocritical? These vaccines use the very same techniques of genetic modification or gene editing that many European politicians have spent the last 25 years preventing their citizens and farmers from having access to for the production and consumption of food, feed and fibre crops and which some environmental advocacy groups have opposed unequivocally.
To date, there has been no credible evidence of negative impact on human health, there is a broad consensus amongst the vast majority of scientists and regulators that these products are safe to consume and there is now a substantial body of evidence that GM crop technology has made important contributions to improving global food security.
Let’s hope that European politicians take the opportunity that the tremendous development of GM/GE derived covid-19 vaccines offers to re-set, re-boot and revise the regulatory approval systems for these technologies so that we can all benefit from their potential in all sectors, including agriculture and food production.