GM pioneers celebrate as relaxing of rules around gene editing finally comes into force

  • 11
  • APR
  • 2022

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.”

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