Julian backs precision breeding law to ensure food security and protect the environment
June 17, 2022
This week, Julian used the first House of Commons stage of the government’s Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill to strongly support this measure to improve national food security, boost animal welfare, enhance environmental protection and help the developing world.
This draft law creates new tailored rules to govern precision breeding of plants and animals, with the aim of facilitating much more of this activity by removing it from the very restrictive regulation we have inherited from the EU used to control and prevent the totally different genetic modification (GM) process.
GM involves splicing together genetic material from different plant or animal species, making it completely different to precision breeding, which just means adjusting material within one species to speed up genetic changes that occur naturally or through conventional breeding methods. This means regulating them the same, as currently, does not reflect the science or reality of the precision breeding process.
Julian has led the campaign for new evidence-based rules as chair of Parliament’s All-Party Group for Science and Technology in Agriculture, given the massive importance of this sector to North Yorkshire and York’s science base, successfully persuading the government to take action through this Bill.
Precision breeding needs to be expanded because it allows for species to yield more food and be made more nutritious and resistant to disease. This means food supply can become larger, healthier, more affordable and more secure as more can be made in the UK rather than imported.
Making species more disease-resistant also improves animal welfare, as they suffer less from medical conditions, and editing crops to be tougher benefits the environment by meaning they need fewer pesticides to protect them. Precision breeding also addresses climate change by making food production more green, with more produced using fewer resources, and can help farmers in poor developing countries by designing species to survive in hostile conditions like drought and flooding.
After speaking and voting in favour of the draft law, Julian said: “Having long worked to raise awareness on this I welcome the government’s move, and will carefully watch the Bill’s next stages.
I used my speech to stress how this can improve animal welfare by fighting disease ,and the tough additional protections that are being put in place before there can be any application of precision breeding to animals. In a time of global economic uncertainty and rising prices this change can also serve to unlock big new investment and job creation in UK science and beyond, and allow us to grow more food in more environmentally-friendly ways in our country and worldwide.
Diverging from the EU’s old inaccurate unscientific rules on this is a major win from Brexit, and all parties recognise the value of this because the Bill passed this stage without a single vote against.
The impact of the Ukraine war on global food supply chains and the recent threats to African food security, on top of supply chain issues as the world economy recovers from covid, added to existing huge challenges of climate change and the need to grow 70% more food by 2050 to feed the growing global population, all mean we can neglect no opportunity to enable producers everywhere to sustainably grow more food.”