Clause 22 - Advisory bodies

Part of Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 5 July 2022.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:00, 5 July 2022

Amendment 18 is another that seeks to replace the negative procedure with the affirmative procedure. Much has been said about the advisory bodies in the Bill—that is the point we are reaching in the clauses. We understand—because it is outlined in clause 22(1), which contains a reference to the Environmental Protection Act 1990—that ACRE will be the advisory committee that considers whether precision bred organisms are indeed precision bred. We are familiar with ACRE, a senior member of which gave oral evidence.

As I hinted in my previous comments, however, the welfare advisory body that considers the impacts on animal welfare is much less clearly defined. The Bill allows for that body to be an existing committee or a new one. Much of the administrative set up of the Committee, and details on how it will operate, are—guess what?—being left to secondary legislation.

Had the Bill not been drafted in such haste, and had the Government determined those details, we would not have felt the need to table so many new clauses. This is a framework Bill. It is a far-from-satisfactory piece of legislation that, as I have just explained, makes it quite hard to work out how the whole system will function. In the light of the role that the welfare advisory body will play in making important considerations about the welfare, pain and health of animals that we now all agree are sentient beings, the provisions in clause 22 should be laid under the affirmative procedure, not the negative procedure. We have tabled amendment 18 to that effect.

I mentioned that I would come to the definition of “adverse effects”, which are referenced in clause 25 but are not laid out in full. That clause states simply that “regulations may prescribe” what is considered an adverse effect on the health or welfare of an animal. As this matter underpins the Bill, and given the ability of the welfare body to consider applications, I believe that that necessary requirement should be a “must” rather than a “may”. We have tabled amendment 20 to that effect.

Amendment 9 was tabled to give examples of what the Bill should consider when it comes to adverse welfare effects, such as the impact of precision breeding traits on the respiratory system, on the immune system and on the ability to exhibit normal behaviour patterns. There is a fairly familiar pattern in what we are seeking to achieve through our amendments, and I suspect that I know what the Minister’s answer will be.