'Gene editing heralds new era for agriculture'


01 July 2022
Root crop specialist discusses precision breeding Bill

BAYER's Campaign Manager for root crops, Antonia Walker, has added her voice to those discussing the merits and disadvantages they feel the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill in the UK could herald.

In an online blog, she looks at what precision breeding techniques could mean for UK agriculture, and the development of new crop varieties now that the government has moved a step closer to departing with European Union policy on the use of advanced techniques in plant breeding. 

As reported previously by Potato Review, the Bill has been welcomed by scientists but condemned by some environmental groups and organic farming organisations.

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"That the government has favoured an approach supported by the science should not come as a surprise. The UK’s status as a world leader in genetics and genomics is widely recognised. It is hoped that the latest proposed piece of legislation, once enacted, will spur investment in UK science and research," Antonia states in her blog. "Perhaps just as importantly, it means that the economic benefit of the breeding advances made by scientists in the UK are shared with growers here rather than by others in jurisdictions where these crops can already be freely cultivated."

Citing an example of a gene-edited tomato which was high in vitamin D, which 40% of Europeans are believed to be deficient in,
she said: “Without a doubt the potential benefits are huge, especially in the fresh produce sector where fruit and vegetables are sold without first needing to be processed. There is a great win-win to had if we get this right. It could benefit the environment through reduced use of plant protection products and society through less food waste but, given the antipathy of many to advanced breeding techniques, MPs will be keen to be seen asking some testing questions of government before voting in its favour.”

The legislation, if passed, would apply to England only. It is for the devolved administration in Wales and Scotland to decide if they wish to follow the policy lead of England.  

Source: Bayer Crop Science

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