Gene editing wars: Experts warn FSA is misleading public

They are calling for the consultation to be withdrawn, alleging multiple breaches of the UK Cabinet Office consultation principles and serious misrepresentation of the facts, which the signatories claim call into question the integrity of the agency.

The FSA consultation​​, which was launched on November 8 2023, aims to elicit the views of consumers, UK and international food/feed businesses and industry trade bodies, UK local authorities and port health authorities, non-government organisations/civil society and third-party assurance organisations on the agency’s plans to create a new regulatory regime for food and animal feed produced from precision bred organisms (PBOs), as part of the Genetic Technology Act 2023.

That Act, which passed into law in March​​ this year, and the substance of which applies in England, contains powers for the UK secretary of state to make secondary legislation around market introduction of PBOs for food and feed in England.

Proponents say the new legislation​​ will unlock key technologies to improve food security, reduce pesticide use, and enhance climate-resilience in crops. They maintain that precision breeding involves using technologies such as gene editing to adapt the genetic code of organisms – creating beneficial traits in plants that through traditional, breeding would take decades to achieve.

Opponents argue the regulation only benefits the biotech industry.  

Misleading information 

The 10 signatories to the complaint ​​contend that the information within the consultation pack is misleading, specifically regarding the nature of precision breeding and the science around its safety.