The Food Standards Agency is currently consulting on secondary legislation following the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act, which was passed in March 2023. The response deadline is 5pm, on Monday January 8th.
Consultation responses will influence how GMOs will be produced and sold in the UK – whether, for example, gene-edited products are clearly labelled, or subject to a thorough risk assessment.
The Soil Association is urging people concerned about the impact of genetic modified organisms in the UK food and farming system to respond to the Food Standards Agency consultation by 5pm on Monday 8 January.
It says that the organic sector has particular concerns as organic standards specifically prohibit the use of GMOs in organic farming and foods, including ‘Precision Bred Organisms’.
Soil Association head of standards Chris Atkinson said, “We only have a small window to make our voices heard on these key issues. The Food Standards Agency failed to reassure consumers and campaigners that they can meet their obligations to protect consumer safety in September 2023 when their board provisionally approved next steps for the Act and the regulation of gene-edited foods and feed products.
“We have deep concerns about the approach they are proposing to the identification, labelling and traceability requirements, they will simply not be able to protect public safety or guard against food fraud.
“We strongly urge everyone concerned about GMOs in the UK food supply chain to have their say and respond to the consultation.”
Research by the Soil Association in August 2023 found that 70% of the public said they would expect genetically engineered foods to be clearly labelled and 64% said they would expect that trials of genetically engineered crops here in the UK would be thoroughly checked by Defra officials and signed off before going live. The government’s own consultation on gene-editing, The regulation of genetic technologies (March 2021), found that 85% of respondents indicated no support for deregulation.
The Soil Association is also critical of the format the consultation, which they say is not “sufficiently impartial or accessible”. To help people respond to the questions they and other stakeholders have produced an online guide to help navigate the online response form.
The Food Standards Agency says that the purpose of this consultation is for the FSA to gather stakeholders’ views on proposals for establishing a new framework in England under the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act 2023 for the regulation of food and animal feed produced from Precision Bred Organisms (PBOs).
The main proposals presented in the consultation are for a new regulatory framework for PBOs for food/feed, including:
- A pre-market authorisation system designed around the classification of PBOs into two tiers, based on independent scientific advice relating to risk
- A public register of PBOs for food/feed which have received marketing authorisations
- Provisions for enforcement of requirements under the new framework.