Gene editing involves replacing genes that govern traits such as water dependency and nutrition with better-functioning ones from the same species.
It has the potential to make crops much more nutritious and resistant to storms or pests – and to considerably boost the resilience and yields of livestock, advocates say.
The technique is currently banned in the UK and Europe on safety concerns – with just a handful of scientific trials allowed so far – although it is permitted in some other parts of the world.
But proponents argue that it’s essentially the same as traditional breeding techniques that have been used in farming for centuries to improve output – with the main difference being that the new technology is much faster because it can be done by single ‘procedure’ rather than over successive generations.
A ten-week consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs into whether to relax the ban on gene editing in farming closes on [March 17].
The Government will publish a response to the consultation within three months – and while the outcome is not a forgone conclusion, the indications are that a lifting of the ban is extremely likely.