England legalizes commercial development of gene-edited food

The new law also has the provision to permit the development of gene-edited farm animals, such as disease-resistant pigs.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational picture of a gene-edited tomato.
Representational picture of a gene-edited tomato.


Gene-edited food can now be commercially developed in England, the BBC reported. This technique entails making precise changes to the DNA of a plant or organism to improve specific characteristics such as size.

The decision was made following a change in the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act. This act covers plants and animals produced through techniques such as gene editing.

Prof Gideon Henderson, chief scientific advisor for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra), stated that the new law would improve food production while also bringing job opportunities and investment to England.

Still, a long way to go

The act permits gene changes that could have occurred naturally or as a result of existing crossbreeding programs. Gene editing is especially useful because specific genes can be added to boost plant growth or reduce reliance on fertilizers. 

Gene-editing crops, on the other hand, are critical in the fight against climate change. For example, scientists can modify certain genes to make crops drought resistant. Additionally, to improve the size and flavor, scientists can identify specific genes and then insert them in the appropriate locations to develop the new variety much faster. While genetically modified (GM) crops will be prohibited because it involves the introduction of genes from other species. 

However, there is still a long way to go before these foods are available in stores. The technology is still in its early stages, and new varieties may not be available for several years. They are, however, on their way. Scientists also insist that these foods will be safe to eat and will be thoroughly tested before entering the market. 

Several governments refuse the use of gene-edited food

In England, gene editing has been subject to the same regulation that has limited the commercial production of GM crops under the EU law. Brexit has given the Westminster government the liberty to relax the rules and give way to newer technology.

"What's changed is that we can now use precision breeding technology developed in the lab and take it into the fields so that we can grow better crops and bring them to market more readily so that we can use the technology to enhance agricultural outcomes and food production in the UK and globally," Henderson told BBC.

However, some critics have claimed that it could result in "disasters" for our food production and the environment. 

The new law also allows for the development of gene-edited farm animals, such as disease-resistant pigs. However, for this decision to be implemented in England, MPs must vote on it. 

Meanwhile, the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments have refused to allow the commercial development of gene-edited food. 

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