Farming News - Scottish Govt could hinder implementation of Gene Editing Bill

Scottish Govt could hinder implementation of Gene Editing Bill

14 Jun 2022
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

The Scottish Govt should not have food products "forced" on it because of the easing of regulations around gene editing the Environment Secretary for Scotland has said and has written to UK environment secretary George Eustice and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, saying Scotland will not make the same changes as England if the bill passed. 

The Genetic Technology Bill is to set different rules from the EU following Brexit and has invited Holyrood ministers to consult over whether gene edited crops should be grown in Scotland.

Ms McAllan said the Scottish government "will not accept any constraint on the exercise of its devolved powers to set standards within devolved policy areas".

 

Under the UK's internal market act, anything approved for sale in one part of the UK must be available across the whole of the UK.

Tomatoes developed by scientists to produce high amounts of vitamin D could be among the first gene-edited produce to go on sale and this dispute could potentially restrict the use of genetically edited produce.

Ms McAllan said in her letter that : "If the UK government is determined to press ahead with this legislation, it must take steps to ensure that its revisions to the definition of a GMO do not force products on Scotland which do not meet standards here without the consent of the Scottish Parliament."

Concern over exports to EU

She went on to say that: "As your impact assessment for the Genetic Technologies (Precision Breeding) Bill acknowledges, removing gene-edited products from England's GM regulatory regime would mean divergence from the EU approach and as such could have implications for compliance costs and future trade.

"The impact assessment also raises the prospect that new trade barriers could come in the form of checks and certification requirements on UK food exports entering the EU's single market.

"It states that this would not only affect products exported to the EU which contain precision-bred plant material, but also those in the same product categories which do not."

In turning down the UK government's offer to include Scotland in its gene editing scheme, the Scottish government is not saying "never".

The Scottish Govt said they will wait for an EU-wide review of the technology, rather than to press ahead, with England, using the policy-making freedom that Brexit allows.

A "political move"

The Scots Govt is aiming to rejoin the EU and want to stay closely aligned to EU rules. They say that the Bill could lead to new trade barriers with the European single market if they decide to ban gene-edited produce.

UK single market rules that mean any gene-edited produce approved in England must automatically be allowed into the Scottish market.

Holyrood ministers hate how that could cut across their powers to regulate what's suitable for sale and are seeking an exemption, without saying what action they might take if they don't get one.

Gene editing is supported by the National Farmers Union in Scotland but Scottish ministers want to keep as close as it can to EU regulations.

New Opportunities

George Eustice has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, saying the new bill provided "the opportunity to make the UK the best place in the world to invest in Agritech innovation" and that "Outside the EU we are free to follow the science.

"These precision technologies allow us to speed up the breeding of plants that have natural resistance to diseases and better use of soil nutrients so we can have higher yields with fewer pesticides and fertilisers.

"The UK has some incredible academic centres of excellence and they are poised to lead the way," he concluded.