Letter to editor: Response to Defra gene editing announcement

29th September 2021

Our chief executive Roger Kerr, has written to members of the food and farming press following news of the government's announcement today on gene editing and regulation.

The letter has been reprinted in a number of publications including Horticulture News and the Farmers Weekly.



Although not unexpected, the announcement that government will introduce legislation to permit gene editing, remains alarming. OF&G would welcome any measure that guarantees benefits to ‘food security, climate change and biodiversity loss’ as highlighted by George Eustice. However, the impacts of genetic technologies in agriculture are wholly unknown.

Defra’s summary report on the consultation indicates that 87% of the public and 64% of businesses (which account for 95% of the responses analysed) feel that deregulation poses a greater risk compared with naturally bred counterparts.

Coming at a time when agricultural policy is going through such upheaval, there is little or no evidence that the much vaunted GE ‘sticking plaster’ will effectively tackle the current social and environmental emergencies.

Proponents of new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) indicate that new varieties of GE crops will ‘benefit farmers and reduce impacts on the environment’. However, with our biodiversity and environment already under huge stress, any new strategy needs to be fully tested and an independent impact assessment made before being released into the natural environment.

Organisms created by genetic engineering are novel and patentable, created using ‘inventive steps’ that do not occur in nature. The Intellectual Property Rights of GE patented crops will be hugely important in the food system. We would encourage a public debate on the impact of ever greater corporate control of our food.

We have had 70 years of agricultural technological innovation which has attempted to manipulate and subvert nature and we are now facing the harsh realities of this approach. GE is no different. Industrial, intensive agriculture is killing our ecosystems and the de-regulation of GE will not address this. The government needs to think beyond a ‘silver bullet’ and implement policies that resolve the root causes of these problems, if we’re to avoid the inexorable slide toward disaster for our society and planet,

Yours sincerely

Roger Kerr, chief executive, OF&G (Organic Farmers & Growers), Shropshire