A UK bill to deregulate genetic engineering technologies in farming and food will have a second reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday (June 15th).
The bill is being strongly opposed by 30 groups and individuals representing a range of food, farming, animal welfare, human health, environmental, academic, ethical and spiritual interests, who have issued a joint statement.
“This bill represents a significant change in the law and has huge implications for farming, food, animal welfare, the environment, the UK’s internal market and its trading relationships with key global markets. It is clear that, in its haste to deregulate, the Government has not adequately considered these implications,” it states.
“Crucially, the bill proposes to remove all requirements of traceability, including labelling, from these technologies. If it passes in its current form, no-one—including farmers, businesses and citizens will be able to exercise the right to choose whether or not to use, purchase or consume the products of these technologies. All surveys, polls and consultations show that people and businesses in the UK — whether or not they are supportive of agricultural genetic technologies — believe these technologies and their products should be regulated, traceable and labelled.”
“Denying the right to choose undermines trust in the food system and in innovation and technology. We are concerned that too few MPs have grasped the full implications of the bill and that, as a result, it could pass into law without the full debate and major revisions it requires. We urge our parliamentarians to take steps to prevent this from happening.”
Pat Thomas, Director of Beyond GM, which organised the statement, went on to say: “The government’s entire plan of action around agricultural GMOs has been a process of writing press releases that make overblown promises and then trying to figure out how to make policy and regulation fit those promises afterwards. This bill is the result. Through sleight of hand, it renames GMOs ‘Precision Bred Organisms (PBOs) and then seeks to hide them in the food and farming system by removing labelling and key citizen and environmental protections. This is not the way to legislate and certainly, when it comes to food and farming, we need policy and regulation that puts food at its centre rather than pushing it to the fringes of a poorly defined innovation agenda.”