Amendment 17

Part of Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 25 January 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 6:30, 25 January 2023

My Lords, I welcome the government amendments that move the regulations to the affirmative procedure; they are extremely welcome.

I thank my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch for her thorough introduction to her Amendments 19 to 21. I am sure noble Lords will remember that in Committee I tabled a number of amendments relating to the welfare advisory body, so we are very pleased to see my noble friend Lady Jones tabling similar amendments today. I spoke at length on this issue in Committee, my noble friend has introduced her concerns and we have heard from across the House, so I shall be brief.

Amendment 19 makes it clear that, in addition to considering information submitted by the notifier, the welfare advisory body should satisfy itself that the notifier has a record of acting in a manner that is consistent with research and animal welfare requirements across other Acts of Parliament. That really should be part of the body’s role. We do not want any confusion or different decision-making across different bodies.

I may have this recollection wrong, but I thought that in an earlier meeting a flow chart was mentioned showing how different animal welfare bodies, in Defra and the Home Office, would interact. I had been hoping to receive a copy of that to get some clarification about precedence and how this was all going to work together. It may have gone into my spam folder and I may have missed it, but if the Minister could check on that, that would be very helpful.

Currently, the Bill states that the welfare advisory body has to determine whether in the animal welfare declaration the notifier has paid regard to the risks to an animal. One of my concerns has always been that it is the notifier who is driving the process and is in the driving seat, rather than the welfare advisory body, which is why we were all very concerned about more checks and balances. We know the Bill says that the notifier has to take reasonable steps to assess those risks, but we do not believe that is a strong enough protection for animals in the Bill.

My noble friend’s amendment would mean that the welfare advisory body had to assess the impact on animals where a precision-bred trait was developed, with the aim, as she said, of achieving fast growth, high yields or other increases in productivity. As we have heard, we have seen that too often in traditional breeding methods, so we need to bring in these protections. We have heard many examples of traditional selective breeding producing animals that were highly efficient but this was often at the expense of animal welfare, and we need to ensure that that is not an unfortunate consequence of the Bill. The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming have raised serious concerns about the lack of safeguards in the Bill to prevent that happening. In addition, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has drawn our attention to the fact that many of the effects of selective breeding have been unintended.

We agree with our noble friend that it is reasonable that welfare impacts should be assessed here. Without the amendment, it is not clear exactly how that would be part of that process with the advisory body, particularly in relation to other bodies that already exist. So we strongly support my noble friend and believe that her amendments should be in the Bill.