Plans to unlock the power of gene editing

Government reveals plans to use gene editing to help farmers grow more resistant, more nutritious and more productive crops

New plans to unlock the power of gene editing to help farmers grow more resistant, more nutritious and more productive crops have been published as part of the government response to the gene editing consultation, announced on 29th September by Environment Secretary George Eustice.

The response sets out how government plans to pave the way to enable use of gene editing technologies, which many claim can help better protect the environment.

Gene editing is a tool that makes plant breeding more precise and efficient so we can breed crops that are more nutritious, resistant to pests and disease, more productive and more beneficial to the environment, helping farmers and reducing impacts on the environment.

In response to the announcement, CLA President Mark Bridgeman said:

“Gene editing has the potential to translate decades of scientific research into the development of crops that are healthier to consume and reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture. The potential benefits are high and the risks are no different from conventional breeding.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

"Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that nature has provided. It is a tool that could help us in order to tackle some of the biggest challenges that we face – around food security, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Outside the EU, we are able to foster innovation to help grow plants that are stronger and more resilient to climate change. We will be working closely with farming and environmental groups to ensure that the right rules are in place."

Defra chief scientific advisor Gideon Henderson said:

"Gene editing technologies provide a more precise way of introducing targeted genetic changes - making the same types of changes to plants and animals that occur more slowly naturally or through traditional breeding.

These tools enable us to harness the richness of natural variation to build better crops, speeding up a process humans have done through breeding for hundreds of years.

There are exciting opportunities to improve the environment, and we can also produce new varieties that are healthier to eat, and more resistant to climate change."

Read the government's response here.