Science & Technology Committee
Advanced Genetic Techniques For Crop Improvement: Regulation, Risk And Precaution
HC 328. Fifth Report of Session 2014-15 - Report, Together with Formal Minutes Relating to the Report
- House of Commons - Science and technology Committee
- TSO (The Stationery Office)
To meet the huge challenge of feeding a burgeoning global population using fewer resources in what is likely to be an increasingly difficult climate, it is likely that we will need to use all of the tools at our disposal, be they social, political, economic or technological. The report 'Advanced Genetic Techniques For Crop Improvement: Regulation, Risk And Precaution (HC 328)' examines how the challenge could be met using advanced genetic techniques to enhance the quality, yield and resilience of agricultural crops.
Staple crops, genetically modified for the purpose of improved pest control, have been widely cultivated for over twenty years and evidence suggests that they have delivered significant benefits, increasing crop yields while reducing the need for harmful pesticides. A much broader array of potential products are in the pipeline, which make use of a variety of advanced techniques to produce novel crop varieties.
No single crop offers a panacea to global agricultural problems but, together, novel crops could play an important role in helping tomorrow's farmers to produce more from less. The EU's current regulatory regime for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) threatens to prevent such products from reaching the market, both in the UK, in Europe and, as a result of trade issues, potentially in the developing world.
The Committee identified three major flaws in this regime:
(i) the focus of the current regulatory system on GMOs is based on the assumption that genetically modified crops inherently pose greater risk than crops produced using other techniques;
(ii) the current system assesses the risks posed by these products but fails to take account of their potentially significant benefits, to the producer, the consumer and, increasingly, the environment; and
(iii) perhaps most significantly, it fails to observe the principle of subsidiarity, preventing member states from making their own decisions about whether or not to adopt a suite of products about which deep political divisions exist across the EU.
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