The industry needs to make ‘absolutely clear’ that gene editing (GE) is very different to genetic modification (GM) if it is to sell the technology to the UK public.
Speaking during the plant health session at NFU Conference, Tom Bradshaw said: “GE is very different to GM. We need to be absolutely clear that GE is speeding up plant breeding. It could be done by current plant breeding methods. If we confuse that discussion, then we are going to confuse the public and we won’t win [the debate]. It’s critical we’re absolutely clear that GE should be allowed.”
Michael Sly, NFU Sugar board chairman added that CRISPR gene editing was already offering solutions to problems in sugar beet through research at Nottingham University.
He said: “Once we move into the [Brexit] transition period and out the other side there is that debate to be had with Government and our consumers that it isn’t about GM, it’s about editing and there’s some real opportunities there. It will be incumbent on us all to act together with sound science and public opinion to drive that debate.”
He added: “It’s a solution to our PPPs and a good news story for the consumer, because we will be using much less of these products that they don’t want us to use.”
However, Defra’s Holly Yates added that last time there was a major public discussion about the technology there was a major kickback.
She said: “The first thing that would need to be considered in looking at this again, is how do you build public trust and build transparency, and how do you have a sensible discussion about how you can achieve benefits to the consumer?”