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March 17th: 'D-Day' For Deregulation Of Genetic Engineering

Consultation on global proposals to deregulate Gene Editing will end on March 17th, with the public and food producers largely in the dark about the major implications. The coincidence in date for proposals in Australia and the UK is a 'D-Day' for food safety.[1] [2]

"'D-Day' will mean Disaster Day, if products from Gene Editing are not regulated for safety for people and the environment and registered in a global database," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

Currently plants and animals produced with Gene Editing are regulated like other GMOs. Removing regulatory oversight will create a 'Wild West' of genetic engineering, where protecting the diversity and lineage of plants and livestock will be increasingly important but also perpetually at risk from uncontrollable contamination.

In Australia the Gene Technology Regulator is planning changes to regulation that emphasise reducing compliance costs through streamlining, deregulation, and automated on-line approvals, in the interest of commercialisation. The concerns of consumers, farmers, growers, and independent science are absent from the documents, even though the decisions have long term impacts on Australia, New Zealand and our export markets.

In the UK the proposals to exempt Gene Editing from regulation follows a similar agenda. It presents questions to the public that are framed by unsubstantiated belief that gene editing is equivalent to traditional breeding in the products it creates. [3]

The EU Commission on food safety is also under fire for letting biotechnology companies inappropriately influence the rules. [4]

New Zealand will be impacted by the outcomes in Australia and the UK, but must find an independent voice in the discussion. The Ministerial Council on which New Zealand had one voice has steadily reduced its meetings and oversight.

Industry players pushing for deregulation of Gene Editing risk undermining the integrity of the food system and losing public trust.

"Trust in New Zealand is fundamental to our export economy. Safety regulation, prevention of contamination, a global register of Gene Edited organisms, and the consumer right to choose by labelling of GE products, are fundamental to the integrity of the whole system," said Jon Carapiet.

The New Zealand government can show leadership in the international community and should urgently voice its support for continued regulation of Gene Editing as being in the national and global interest.

References:

[1]National Gene Technology Scheme, Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (CRIS) - https://consultations.health.gov.au/best-practice-regulation/gene-technology-scheme-cris/

[2] Regulation of Genetic Technologies https://consult.defra.gov.uk/agri-food-chain-directorate/the-regulation-of-genetic-technologies/

[3] Response to UK Government’s Consultation on the Regulation of Genetic Technologies https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/19728-gmwatch-publishes-its-response-to-uk-government-consultation-on-deregulation-of-gene-editing

[3] GMWatch ... exposes UK government misinformation on gene editing https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/19697-gmwatch-mythbuster-exposes-uk-government-misinformation-on-gene-editing

[4] Green Light for GMOs
https://friendsoftheearth.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Green-light-for-GMOs.pdf

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