UK GMO lobby wants “genome edited” products to escape GMO regulation and labelling

Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

Parts of the UK scientific establishment are attempting to overturn existing GMO regulations and deceive consumers, writes Claire Robinson

There’s a massive lobbying effort in Europe, led by the UK, to exempt new “genome editing” techniques from GMO regulations and labelling. Currently crops and animals produced using these methods fall squarely within the European definition of a GMO, which is an organism in which “the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination”.

Technologies have been developed that are intended to target GM gene insertion to a predetermined site within the plant’s DNA in an effort to obtain a more predictable outcome than old-fashioned transgenic genetic modification can offer.

Unfortunately, however, these new techniques are not precise. Studies have found that they cause unintended genomic modifications in off-target sites, potentially causing a range of harmful side-effects.

It’s highly unlikely that these peer-reviewed findings will be mentioned by the pro-GMO lobby group Sense About Science and its chosen experts, who are running a live Q&A session on genome editing today.

Meanwhile the UK’s main public science funding body, the BBSRC, has published a lobbying statementarguing for the precision of genome editing techniques. One interesting thing about this statement and others arguing the same line is their implicit admission that old-fashioned transgenic methods are imprecise. It’s taken many years for the GMO lobby to admit this and of course they only do so when industry has something “new” and “better” to offer.

Read more