DAWN OF A NEW ERA
GM pioneers celebrate as relaxing of rules around gene editing finally comes into force
With new regulations governing genome edited field trials in England coming into effect from today, two scientists who were part of the vanguard of GM research in the 1980s have hailed it as “historic”.
Professors Johnathan Napier and Nigel Halford said the new rules - which mean that genome edited, or GE, field trials will now no longer have to be run under GM regulations– will make it much easier for them to do their research and test new GE varieties in the field.
“This might not seem like a big deal, but it is the first example of regulation being relaxed as opposed to increased and indicates the government’s enthusiastic commitment to genome editing and new genetic technologies,” said Professor Napier, who started working on GM plants in 1989 whilst at the University of Cambridge.
“Nigel and I have been in the GM plant business from the very beginning, and this change in regulation really is a big deal and something that is very welcome.”
Professor Halford said he was pleased that Defra had acted swiftly in bringing in the new regulations, meaning field trials can be carried out this year.
“It feels like a historic day, and I really hope the plant science community responds and takes advantage of the new opportunities.”
The changes to regulations come into effect from today, April 11th and means scientists must give notice to Defra at least 20 days before the day of release itself.
This means genome edited seeds could be in the ground as early as the 1st May this year.
This is a change to the previous rules, which required that GE field trials be classified as a form of GM, despite the two techniques being quite different.
“It’s really heartening that the government has followed scientific advice on the classification of GE as non-GM,” said Professor Napier.
“And it will hopefully help researchers develop new crops more quickly.”
About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
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1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
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The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.