Genetically Modified Organisms: Crops

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union on 25 July that gene-edited crops should be subject to the same EU regulations as conventional genetically modified organisms on (1) the UK plant biotechnology sector, and (2) the availability of Horizon 2020 funding for plant technology research; and what plans they have, if any, to mitigate any impact.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government intervened in the Court of Justice case because it considered that gene-edited crops should not be subject to the same regulations as conventional genetically modified organisms. Our view is that gene-edited organisms should not be subject to GM regulation if the changes made to their DNA could have occurred naturally or through traditional breeding methods.

We recognise that gene-editing has the potential to make farming more productive and sustainable and that the UK plant biotechnology sector could be a leading player. We were therefore disappointed in the Court’s judgment and the impact it will have on innovation.

The judgement is binding in the UK. However, our departure from the EU could give us the opportunity to take a different regulatory approach in due course. Whilst this may depend on the terms of any agreement that is reached with the EU on future arrangements, it is something that we want to consider.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement envisages that UK participants will be eligible to bid for Horizon 2020 funding for the duration of the programme, including after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Projects that are successful in the bidding process will be entitled to receive EU funding for their lifetime. The Government’s priority remains ensuring that the draft Withdrawal Agreement is finalised and concluded.

We are planning for every eventuality. The two major components of our planning in a scenario where the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified (a “no deal” scenario) are the Government’s underwrite guarantee and the post-departure extension to the guarantee. These mechanisms would ensure cross-border collaboration could continue after we leave the EU.

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