Crop genome editing has become increasingly widespread and has clear relevance to both food and feed, presenting a wide range of potential uses and impacts (traits such as disease resistance, yield and nutritional content). The UK Government recently completed a consultation about the regulation of genetic technologies with a view to changing the legislative framework on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) so that it no longer applied to organisms produced by gene editing (GE) and other genetic technologies if they could have been developed using traditional breeding methods. The Government plans to enable field trials of plants produced in this way by the end of the year. These trials would not require the risk assessments and consents that are required for field trials with GMOs. Additionally, it is seeking to bring forward primary legislation to amend the regulatory definition of a GMO to exclude organisms that have genetic changes that could have been developed by traditional breeding or could have occurred naturally. Appropriate regulatory measures to enable such crops to be brought to market will also be considered.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision of 2018 (C-528/16) that organisms altered with genome editing are GMOs within the meaning of the Directive 2001/18/EC has led the EU to review its position with the intention of adopting a similar approach in line with advice from its science advisory bodies that GE organisms should not be classed as GMOs. One of the main conclusions of the European Commission study on new genomic techniques (NGTs) of April 2021 was that there are strong indications that applicable EU legislation is not fit for purpose for some NGTs and their products. There is also considerable variation in the evolving regulation of gene editing globally, which is also an area of rapid technological development.

This POSTnote will update previous gene editing POSTnotes, identifying emerging trends with respect to food crops to provide an overview of new technologies and products in development.

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