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Harpenden, 23 March, 2023

Chief Executive Professor Angela Karp and other Rothamsted scientists have today welcomed the news that the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act has passed into law. 

Professor Karp said: “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.

“Genome Editing will significantly speed up our ability to test enhanced crops in the field. With the triple threats of climate change, a burgeoning human population, and widespread biodiversity loss hanging over us, the sooner we can get more resilient, more nutritious, nature-friendly crops to market the better.”

The hope is that 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, says genetic engineering pioneer, Prof Johnathan Napier. 

“The UK’s bioscience sector is now open for business,” he said. “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.”

Precision breeding involves using technologies such as gene editing to adapt the genetic code of organisms – creating beneficial traits in plants that through traditional, breeding would take decades to achieve. 

This enables scientists to safely create foods that are more flexible, adaptable and plentiful for years to come. 

Under the provisions of this Act, a new science-based and streamlined regulatory system will remove plants produced through precision breeding technologies from regulatory requirements applicable to genetically modified organisms. 

It will also establish a new science-based authorisation process for food and feed products derived from precision bred plants. 

Someone else whose research will benefit from the bill is Prof Peter Eastmond, who is exploring how to use methods, such as precision breeding, to develop grasses with a higher fat content, which can improve animal feed by making it more energy-rich and which has the potential to supress methane emissions from livestock. 

He said: “The opportunities this new genome editing law will bring are genuinely exciting. I strongly believe that genome editing can contribute to making farming net zero. The increase in leaf total lipid content that we’ve achieved in the lab using GE is likely sufficient to significantly enhance productivity and reduce methane emissions from cattle and sheep if replicated in pastures.”

Professor Nigel Halford, who is currently running Europe’s first field trial of genome edited wheat, added: “This is great news. It will make it much easier for us to test the low acrylamide wheat lines we are developing in the field, which is essential if we are to find out if they could be suitable for wheat breeders to use. The possibility of low acrylamide wheat products being available to consumers in the future has moved one step closer.”


Prof. Angela Karp


Prof. Johnathan Napier

Omega-3 Camelina Development

Prof. Nigel Halford

Crop Scientist


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.