I am aware that the Government is working to encourage agricultural and scientific invocation in the UK and unlock the potential of new technologies to promote sustainable and efficient farming and food production.
Introduced to Parliament in May 2022, the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill will remove unnecessary barriers inherited from the EU to enable the development and marketing of precision bred plants and animals, which will drive economic growth and position the UK as the leading country in which to invest in agri-food research and innovation.
The Bill will create a new, simpler regulatory regime for precision bred plants and animals that have genetic changes that could have arisen through traditional breeding or natural processes. It will also introduce two notification systems for research and marketing purposes, where breeders and researchers will need to notify the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of precision bred organisms. It will establish a new science-based authorisation process for food and feed products developed using precision bred organisms.
I appreciate the strength of feeling about this Bill and have noted the views raised about the amendments and new clauses that have been proposed. I look forward to seeing this Bill return to the House for and will closely follow my ministerial colleagues’ response to amendments and new clauses put forward. However, I am assured that the Food Standards Agency will only authorise products for sale in the first place if they are judged to present no risk to health, do not mislead consumers and do not have lower nutritional value than their traditionally bred counterparts.
Since precision breeding technologies mimic traditional breeding processes, the products from precision bred plants or animals only contain genetic changes that could have occurred through natural or traditional breeding. Therefore, I understand that Ministers do not believe it would be proportionate to require labelling of these products. In addition, the scientific advice is that precision bred organisms pose no greater risk to the environment and health than their traditionally bred counterparts.
Existing labelling requirements will continue to apply to allow consumers to make choices about their food, such as nutritional and allergen labelling. However, to ensure transparency, Defra is developing a public register so that information about food and feed products that are authorised by the FSA is available in the public domain. I understand that mandatory labelling will still be required for GM food products.
I am aware that the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill is consistent with the science and also the approach taken by many international partners around the world that have already legislated in this way. I look forward to seeing this Bill return to the House for its Remaining Stages in due course.