The UK Government’s Genetic Technology Bill threatens “seismic consequences” for the whole of the food industry, says Roger Kerr, chief executive of Organic Farmers & Growers, in a letter issued to media today.
“As the Genetic Technology Bill races unhindered through parliament, the potentially seismic consequences to the UK food industry from this contentious policy are simply being ignored.
This deeply troubling bill removes any labelling and traceability requirements for a hypothetical sub-class of GMO, the so-called ‘precision bred organism’ (PBO). These exempted organisms will effectively be hidden in the food system.
The Regulatory Policy Committee has already raised a red flag, stating that the bill fails to consider the impact of creating a new class of GMO. Let’s be absolutely clear-eyed that in its present form this bill will fail businesses; it will fail consumers; and it will fail the environment.
OF&G believes the Government must urgently make provision to minimise the financial impact to all food businesses by establishing a comprehensive co-existence regime. The worrying alternative is that businesses would need to undertake their own traceability testing. A complex and expensive process adding an estimated cost of around £500,000 pa to SMEs.
Neither does the Bill address the implications to significant export markets, where GMOs are still regulated (including the UK’s devolved nations). If the UK does not make adequate provision to ensure PBOs are identified, critical markets will be lost to UK food businesses.
Hiding GMOs within the food system will have immeasurable long-term consequences on an already reeling UK food industry. It also fails to safeguard our basic right as citizens to make an informed choice about what we consume.”