Last week’s European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling which subjected gene editing (GE) to the same regulations which cover genetic modification (GM) has been slammed by the USA.
Sonny Perdue, the US Agriculture Secretary, branded the ruling a ‘setback’ in an extraordinarily critical statement.
GE speeds up traditional breeding processes, allowing insect- or disease-resistant varieties of crops or breeds of animals to be developed quickly by replacing one DNA sequence with another.
Unlike GM, no foreign DNA is inserted into a gene edited organism, which is why the rules surrounding GE had been unclear until the ECJ ruling.
Mr Perdue said: “Government policies should encourage scientific innovation without creating unnecessary barriers or unjustifiably stigmatising new technologies.
“Unfortunately, this week’s ECJ ruling is a setback in this regard in that it narrowly considers newer genome editing methods to be within the scope of the EU’s regressive and outdated regulations governing GMOs.
“We encourage the EU to seek input from the scientific and agricultural communities, as well as its trading partners, in determining the appropriate implementation of the ruling.”
Defra Secretary Michael Gove has previously embraced the prospect of expanding GE technology, telling 2018’s Oxford Farming Conference it offered the possibility of conquering human and animal diseases.
But it is not clear how far the UK could go in diverging from EU rules on GE under the ‘common rule book’ proposed by the Chequers agreement.
Current EU regulations require all GMOs to have authorisation before they can be placed on the market, making the topic a likely sticking point in any future UK-US trade talks.
UK industry and scientific bodies have condemned the ECJ ruling, but others, including MEP Molly Scott Cato, have supported it.
In an exclusive piece for Farmers Guardian’s Brexit hub, Ms Scott Cato said the effects of developing and cultivating gene-edited crops or other organisms are ‘little known and could have extremely damaging effects’.