I want to see much stronger tests on animal welfare impacts in the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill.

Currently, the legislation introduces animal welfare declarations and an animal welfare body to consider applications to produce gene-edited organisms. However, it does not specify which impacts on animals would be grounds for an application being denied, nor does it lay out what evidence the advisory body will consider regarding animal welfare.

This is an opportunity for the UK to create a world-leading regulatory framework, but, whilst I believe that this legislation is a start, the Bill is being rushed and is thin on detail, with too much being left to secondary legislation we have not yet seen. With that lack of detail comes a risk, the public needs assurances that these new technologies are being used for the public good and not only for a narrow commercial advantage.

We must have a regulatory system to ensure that these technologies are used for the right purposes. For example, I would not want to see gene editing that modifies animals to allow them to tolerate more cramped conditions.

More widely, I am pro-science and pro-innovation, and I want to find ways to maintain and improve the efficiency, safety, and security of our food system while addressing the environmental and health damage caused by the modern food system. I understand that laws designed almost 30 years ago for genetically modified products do not reflect advances in understanding and technology. However, we must ensure that the distinction between gene editing and gene modification is drafted clearly and transparently.

In my view, there must be assurances that allowing the editing of genes in one organism does not also allow introduction of genes from another organism. I am concerned that the legislation is not entirely clear on this subject. I would also like to see clear labelling of products created with gene editing.

I believe gene editing could bring gains in environmental sustainability and food security. However, it must come with a strong regulatory framework. I will support the Opposition’s efforts to improve the legislation to create this.

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