Blinkered resistance to gene editing

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

This is a Times leader from a couple of weeks ago.  I'm reprinting it because I agree with it.  These points were made in The World we'll Leave Behind.

Europe’s blinkered resistance to gene editing is a blow to good science

"Food security is one of the burning issues of our time. By 2050 there will be an estimated ten billion mouths to feed. The climate is changing, becoming harsher in many regions, and the environment is suffering from toxic agricultural practices.

All this lends urgency to innovation in the way we farm our land. Africa, in particular, will depend on imaginative advances in increasing yields and shielding produce from infection. Yet the European Court of Justice has, in a fit of backward-looking protective zeal, declared that genetic editing must be bound by the very strict restraints that it imposes on all genetically modified foods. That may be a victory for environmentalists but it is a blow to Europe’s biotech industry and a setback for scientists in Britain who have already started trials of gene-edited camelina crops, augmented with Omega-3 fish oils.

The dismay has spread across Europe, where more than 120 leading scientists are warning that the continent is in danger of becoming a research backwater. One of the latest breakthroughs in biotechnology is precision breeding, which can help farmers to minimise fertilisers and pesticides and lets them tailor crops to regional problems. Drought-resistant cost-efficient crops will not only save lives but also ease migration flows across sub-Saharan Africa. The small genome edits needed to produce such hardy crops are not some kind of Frankenstein invention. They are at least as safe as those resulting from conventional breeding.

European policymakers, in setting the bar too high before accepting innovation, do no service to consumers or to the environment. They stand in the face of responsible science. The exodus of scientists that is likely to result from the court’s judgment should be a standing rebuke to Europe’s outdated rules and its wider failure of imagination."

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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