A report published on Thursday night by the Government’s ‘better regulation watchdog’ says that the Government’s Genetic Technologies Bill – which would enable the deregulation of controversial gene-editing techniques – is “weak” and “not fit for purpose”.
Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) concludes that the government has failed to make a convincing business case for the deregulation of genetically engineered (“precision bred”) organisms in the farming and food system.
The RPC is an independent body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) whose role is to “assess the quality of evidence and analysis used to inform regulatory proposals affecting the economy, businesses, civil society, charities and other non-government organisations”.
The report concludes that overall the government’s analysis of the full impact of deregulating genome edited plants and animals is “weak” and that the impact assessment:
· has not adequately considered and discussed the full range of potential impacts arising from the creation of a new category of genetically modified organisms
· has not sufficiently considered and discussed the full range of impacts upon small and medium businesses
· requires a detailed assessment of the competition, innovation, consumer and environmental impacts
· needs to include greater discussion of the impacts arising from removing labelling and traceability requirements
· needs to be improved by revisiting the assumption relating to the devolved administrations (DAs) and what impact this will have on the number of trials across the various scenarios.
It also notes that the quality of the Equivalent Annual Net Direct Cost to Business (EANDCB) and the Small and Micro Businesses Assessment (SaMBA) estimates provided by government are not based on validated evidence and “Therefore, the RPC is unable to certify that the IA is fit for purpose.”
“much of the evidence regarding risk … is drawn from interested parties, or based on scientific trials, that do not replicate real-world conditions (including farmers’ behaviour). Such a narrative could, in turn, impede research, development and evaluation of an important new technology”
It notes, also, that “much of the evidence regarding risk discussed in the IA, is drawn from interested parties, or based on scientific trials, that do not replicate real-world conditions (including farmers’ behaviour). Such a narrative could, in turn, impede research, development and evaluation of an important new technology.”
Beyond GM Director Pat Thomas comments: “Deregulation represents a substantial change in UK legislation and a substantial divergence from what UK citizens say they want. The case for wholesale deregulation has always been weak and the government must be held to account for the wild assumptions and blind guesswork it is using to justify this Bill. There is no solid evidence base for claiming that deregulation will benefit UK Plc and the removal of all requirements of traceability, including labelling, is an underhanded way to sneak these foods into our food system, and one that will irreparably damage public trust.”