Not too late to act!
Although the deadline is now past to respond to this consultation, you can still write to your MP! See below for our suggestions as to wording.
Proposed deregulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
The UK Government has launched a Consultation on the Regulation of Genetic Technologies. They are proposing to remove all regulations around plants and animals created using new experimental genetic engineering technologies (commonly referred to as gene-edited or genome edited).
This is not a neutral consultation. It starts with a description of CRISPR and other new techniques as "gene edited (GE) organisms possessing genetic changes which could have been introduced by traditional breeding" but these are new technologies and more is being learnt about them every day. Direct intervention at the genetic level is different from traditional breeding and can result in multiple and unexpected errors across the genome, some of which may pose a threat to people or the environment.
We believe that complete deregulation is a bad idea, and that it is important to have consultations and discussion on a case by case basis before these organisms are released into our environment, rather than waiting to see afterwards if there are any problems.
More generally, we don't believe that the problems in our food system will be solved by a techno-fix such as gene-editing. The supply of seeds is already far too concentrated in the hands of a very few large agri-businesses. We need a broader discussion of how to make our seed and food system work better not gung-ho deregulation.
We would encourage everyone who is concerned about this to either respond to the consultation or to write to their MP asking them to keep these essential protections in place.
1) Respond to the consultation
The consultation document is on the DEFRA website. It seems to be designed to be as technical and offputting as possible, but remember you are entitled to have your say as a gardener, citizen and consumer. You don't have to answer every question, and you don't have to give technical answers.
The Landworkers Alliance has a really good explanation of the consultation and the issues and problems that it raises for a sustainable food supply in our country. If you wish they have suggested answers from their own response that you can use as a model.
The easiest way to email your MP is via the WriteToThem website.
Here is an example - though it is better to put things into your own words.
Dear Mr/Ms _______
Subject: DEFRA Consultation on the Regulation of Genetic Technologies
I am writing to express my concern about the Defra consultation on the deregulation of gene-editing.
The consultation talks about "gene edited (GE) organisms possessing genetic changes which could have been introduced by traditional breeding" but these are new technologies and more is being learnt about them every day.
Direct intervention at the genetic level is very different from traditional breeding and can result in multiple and unexpected errors across the genome, some of which may pose a threat to people or the environment. We need to keep regulation and examination of individual gene-edited crops and livestock before taking decisions about releasing them into general circulation.
More generally the current shortage of vegetable seeds in the UK shows that we need to be looking at widening our seed supply rather than signing up to technologies that are likely increase our dependence as a country on a very small number of huge multinational agri-businesses.
As a gardener and consumer, I want to see a wider conversation about the best ways to develop a seed system that will work for UK farmers, growers and the wider environment.
I would be grateful for a reply to this letter
3) If you are in Wales or scotland
Because agriculture is the responsibility of the national governments, DEFRA's deregulation proposals only apply to England. It is still important to respond.
Firstly, pollen doesn't respect borders, and once GM crops are in the environment they will inevitably spread across the whole country. Also, the Internal Market act means that it won't be possible for the Welsh or Scottish governments to stop the sale of GM foods if they are deregulated in England.
We will be adding these points to the sample letter above when writing to our MP.
(Our apologies to those in Northern Ireland, we're not currently clear what the legal position will be there.)
- Media contact: Kate McEvoy, The Real Seed Catalogue: firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE REAL SEED CATALOGUE:
The Real Seed Catalogue ( www.realseeds.co.uk ) is a well-known DEFRA-registered seed supplier, based in Wales, that specialises in breeding and supplying vegetable seed specially suited to the needs of home gardeners. As a not-for-profit company dedicated to the needs of home gardeners, it is also one of the UK's premier seed-saving organisations, educating the public about seed saving and how to preserve their own heritage varieties of vegetables at home.