Royal Society responds to Defra Regulation of Gene Editing consultation response

28 September 2021

Professor Linda Partridge FRS, Biological Secretary of the Royal Society, said:

“With the UK’s departure from the European Union, it is welcome that the Government is looking at how our laws can continue to assure the safety and efficacy of new technologies, like genome editing, whilst making the most of the opportunities that all genetic technologies present to help tackle food security and the crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

“The Royal Society has a long-standing position that applications for genetic technologies, including genome editing and genetic modification, should be regulated based on the trait that has been introduced rather than on the process used to introduce the trait.

“Regulating genetic technologies on the basis of whether the outcome could or could not have been achieved using traditional breeding technologies perpetuates the false assumption that risk and benefit are determined by the technology used to make a genetic change to a crop. As the Government moves ahead with wider legislative reforms of the regulatory system, the Society would like to see active consideration of a system which weighs the consequences of a genetic change – and the farming system in which it is deployed – ahead of the technology being used.  

“Public input on what purposes genetic technologies should be used for will be an important part of any future regulatory system. In its response to this consultation the Royal Society proposed a public forum as a model for future consideration.”