Examination of Witnesses

Part of Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 28th June 2022.

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Roger Kerr:

From an organic regulatory basis, as Chris has already indicated, GE is still defined as GM. We need to be much clearer about what GE is being defined as, and we still do not have that clarity. As things stand, it is not allowed within the organic regulation, so the risk is where there is a lack of co-existence measures in place, which means that organic crops are contaminated. Organic consumers make these purchasing decisions because they believe they are avoiding GM, and that is a right they should have.

By not having robust co-existence measures in place, we are obviously putting our consumers at risk, because they are purchasing organic products on the basis that they do not believe they are consuming GM. It is a personal choice—I am not saying that you should not—and the organic sector is not saying per se that we should not have genetic editing. What we are saying is that it is incompatible with organic. Organic is out there, and there is a market for it, as Steve has clearly stated. There is a significant opportunity, both domestically and internationally, for the UK organic sector.

We should protect the organic sector, and there should be some visibility in terms of GE—where it is being grown, what is being grown and what the potential risks associated with that are for the organic sector—so we can ensure that the organic sector remains free from GM or GE, as it is at the moment. There is concern that if we are looking to provide consumers with the choice of having GE or not, we will end up with quite a significant cost within the supply chain to ensure co-existence, in terms of space and time, between GM and non-GM. This is not organic per se; it is just GM and non-GM. We will then have to have extra storage, more vehicle movements and a much higher level of testing. There are concerns that, without real clarity about what is going on and where the potential points of contamination arise, a significant cost will be borne by the food sector, which is already under significant pressure.