Organic sector calls for Jayawardena to intervene on ‘red rated’ Genetic Technology Bill

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The UK’s leading organic certification bodies have written a joint letter to Ranil Jayawardena, the new Secretary of State at Defra, urging him to intervene on the progress of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill.

OF&G and the Soil Association believe the Secretary of State has an opportunity to make an intervention on this issue. 

“Mr Jayawardena arrives at a critical time,” says Roger Kerr, OF&G’s chief executive. “He wasn’t wrong when he posted on Twitter that ‘there is much to do’ while also emphasising the importance of food security. We’re hopeful that given this stance, he will pause the passage of this Bill and allow for a new Impact Assessment.”

Serious concerns were raised with the Bill’s ‘red rating’ that was issued by the Regulatory Policy Committee which concluded that Defra’s initial Impact Assessment for the new Bill was ‘unfit for purpose’.

A joint letter has been sent to the new Secretary of State from the organic sector across the United Kingdom calling for a pause on the Bill’s progress, to allow for a new Impact Assessment on Genetic Technology as described in the Bill and to ensure the Bill is subsequently amended based on the outcome of that assessment.

UK organic bodies believe that in taking a rational approach now Mr Jayawardena can alleviate concerns and avoid unnecessary shocks to food supply chains.

Soil Association Group CEO Helen Browning said: “The new Secretary of State has inherited flawed legislation and it is vital that this bill does not proceed in this form. It needs to be thoroughly reviewed with an assessment of the missing evidence and to take account of views expressed in the Defra’s own public consultation that proved the plans are so unpopular.

“Rather than waiting for the promises of such technology to materialise, the minister has a golden opportunity to prioritise a shift to nature-friendly, agroecological farming, including organic. This is the most evidence-based solution for climate, nature and health and can be done right now. If the minister is to proceed with this legislation, he must get to grips with these risks and create a Bill that’s fit for purpose in the eyes of Parliament and the public.”

“It would be very unusual to proceed with new policy without undertaking a more thorough Impact Assessment,” adds Kerr. “Ignoring the ‘red rating’ threatens to undermine government standards in evidence-based decision making and could lead to lower protection for farmers, food businesses and for the public interest.”

“Like all of us, the newly appointed cabinet has expressed their keenness to avoid any severe and unnecessary negative economic shocks in the marketplace. For the organic sector that means working together to protect the viability of all farmers and food businesses,” concludes Kerr.

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