Rothamsted Director Professor Angela Karp has joined with other leading UK scientists in welcoming the new Defra consultation on gene editing.
She said: “I am pleased that the consultation is now published and hope it will mean recent advances in gene editing technologies will soon be contributing to a more sustainable and productive farming sector. We’ve already seen the huge benefits genome editing brings to areas such as medicine – it’s now time to apply the same sort of innovation, together with responsible regulation, to our food production.
“Humanity faces some grave challenges over the coming decades, and the solutions that genome editing make possible cannot come too soon.”
Scientists believe genome editing of crops and livestock will lead to increased yields, improved nutritional content of food, and increased resilience to pests and diseases.
Benefits to the environment from the technology could include less land being used for farming and a reduction in farm inputs such as water, fertilisers, and pesticides - as well as a reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions.
The consultation is over UK Government plans to regulate the products of precision breeding techniques in the same way as conventional breeding methods, rather than as GMOs as they are classified under EU law.
Countries such as Australia, Japan, Argentina, the US and Brazil already regulate genome edited agricultural products in this way.
Rothamsted’s Professor Johnathan Napier said: “This consultation sends an important message that the UK’s bioscience sector is open for business and equipped to meet the many challenges facing agriculture using new technology.
“Early benefits of gene editing for UK agriculture could include gluten-free wheat, oilseeds with heart-healthy fats, disease-resistant sugar beet and potatoes that are even healthier than those we have now.
“Gene editing can also help accelerate the improvement of orphan crops like cassava, millet, cowpea and yams, which are critical to food security in less developed parts of the world.”
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 in areas as diverse as crop management, statistical interpretation and soil health. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern
agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative approach to developing innovative farm practice.
Through independent research, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally, with economic impact estimated to exceed £3 bn in annual contribution to the UK economy. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and multiple partnerships.
Rothamsted is home to three unique National Bioscience Research Infrastructures which 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).
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.
BBSRC invests to push back the frontiers of biology and deliver a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future. Through our investments, we build and support a vibrant, dynamic and inclusive community which delivers ground-breaking discoveries and develops bio-based solutions that contribute to tackling global challenges, such as sustainable food production, climate change, and healthy ageing.
As part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), we not only play a pivotal role in fostering connections that enable the UK’s world-class research and innovation system to flourish – we also have a responsibility to enable the creation of a research culture that is diverse, resilient, and engaged.
BBSRC proudly forges interdisciplinary collaborations where excellent bioscience has a fundamental role. We pioneer approaches that enhance the equality, diversity, and inclusion of talent by investing in people, infrastructure, technologies, and partnerships on a global scale.
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.