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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Joanna Lewis:

I understand that you are addressing us as the organic industry and the organic sector, but I just want to reiterate that the Soil Association is a charity of 70 years’ standing that represents all citizens, farmers, growers and scientists who want to see a mainstream transition to agroecological farming and regenerative farming for climate, nature and health.

The response to the consultation on the Bill—85% of people and businesses were opposed—reflects a deeper unease not just about the safety issues and technicalities around the distinction between gene editing and GMOs. That is what I was trying to bring through with reference to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’s public dialogue. It is really important to emphasise the very legitimate public concerns about the fact that breeding as a whole—plant and animal breeding—has been on an unhelpful trajectory that is not up to the challenge of the Government’s goals on sustainable farming transition. We therefore need to ensure that we are not accelerating that trend through carte blanche deregulation.

There is an opportunity to put good governance at the heart of this Bill, set that public interest test, and ensure full supply chain traceability, transparency and labelling for citizens who want and deserve the right to choose whether this is the solution for them. I would not want it narrowed down to saying we are representing an economic sector. This is a broader movement, and it is very much one for mainstream transition.