Gene editing - dicing with the future of our food

Draeyk van der Horn, Renew's spokesperson on Food and Farming, delves into some of the concerns surrounding gene editing.

New genetic modification techniques (NGMTs) such as “gene editing” present ethical concerns as well as economic and environmental ones. There are a number of unresolved questions and concerns.

There is an overwhelming flaw in the claim that gene editing of food crops and animals is similar to accelerated breeding or natural mutations as this is wholly unprovable.

At the moment we have a regulatory approach to our food and farming standards that rests in the precautionary principle. If we give way to a laissez-faire deregulation model, where the onus is put on consumers or “those harmed” to come up with “proof of harm” we are in very different waters. Rigorous independent scientific research must be commissioned and the proponents of NGMTs must show no proof of harm is evident before wider consultations can begin. The UK’s shift and potential acceptance of a deregulated approach is perhaps due to this governments haste in submitting to new trade agreements that potentially lower food standards, most notably with the USA.

The bar to gene editing acceptability must be robust and high, given it allows for outcomes that may be unprecedented in human experience. Familiar species and breeds may become unrecognisable over time through gene editing, through the ongoing manipulation of genetic code. Gene editing also raises concern around “ownership” of these new varieties and breeds, profoundly impacting food security by concentrating ownership of our food, though patents, into the hands of a few.

From a strictly scientific and technical perspective, NGMTs are clearly genetic modification procedures that result in the production of GMOs and as such must remain within the remit of existing GMO legislation.

The challenges for future food production are not simply based in the lab, but in the fundamental need to create food that works in harmony with the planet rather than a short term sell that does not tackle the underlying issues. Our planet is capable of feeding us. If we focus on reducing waste, build resilient food networks that serve local communities and embrace sound agricultural principles we nurture more than just our food and land but our well being.

Food and Farming needs to be recognised in terms of its stewardship and in terms of creating and maintaining traditions that support all life, working in harmony with natural systems. Supporting our farming communities means focusing on a path that supports a sustainable future, rather than rushing towards the irreversible direction of gene editing, that is quite simply dicing with our future.


Draeyk van der Horn
Spokesperson on Food and Farming
The Renew Party

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