Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill

Thank you for contacting me about genetic technology. I know that the Government is working to encourage agricultural and scientific innovation in the UK through legislation, opening the potential of new technologies to promote sustainable and efficient farming and food production.

Globally, between 20 and 40 per cent of all crops grown are lost to pests and diseases, representing a significant waste of land use and environmentally costly agricultural inputs. Improving crop resistance to pests and diseases through precision breeding technologies will have a range of benefits. This includes using gene editing to give resistance to disease such as Virus Yellows, reducing the need for pesticides, protecting the environment, increasing food production and reducing costs for farmers.

Further, developing wheat that is resilient to climate change will help to increase food production from a crop which 2.5 billion people depend on globally. In addition, I understand that when certain food products such as potatoes, cereals and coffee are heated to a high temperature, a probable cancer-causing compound called acrylamide is formed from asparagine. The use of gene editing could help reduce the risk of acrylamide formation, which could have benefits for public health and the safe manufacturing of food products.

The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill creates 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. I am assured that no changes will be made to the regulation of animals unless animal welfare is safeguarded.

I am aware that since 2018, around 40 per cent of small businesses and 33 per cent of larger companies involved in plant breeding in Europe have stopped or reduced research and development activities relating to precision breeding technologies.

Through the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, the Government will be able to remove unnecessary barriers inherited from the EU to enable the development and marketing of precision bred plants and animals, driving economic growth and positioning the UK as the leading country in which to invest in agri-food research and innovation.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.