'Precisions Breeding' Bill is genetically engineered food 'by the back door'

Green Peer Natalie Bennett has raised concerns over the new Genetic Technology (Precisions Breeding Bill) which passed through the Commons yesterday (25 January), calling it an attempt to push genetically modified foods on the public ‘by the back door’.

Cows eating hay in indoor enclosure
Cows eating hay in indoor enclosure
Green World

Natalie Bennett, a former Green Party leader and now a Green peer, has accused the Government of using a ‘marketing slogan’ to push genetically modified foods on the public ‘by the back door’. 

The Genetic Technology (Precisions Breeding) Bill which passed through the Commons yesterday (25 January) is in the final substantive stage in the Lords. It allows genetically engineered foods to be marketed without labelling. A government consultation showed that 88 per cent of the public and 65 per cent of businesses were against the proposals.

Bennett is offering a last chance for the House to exclude animals from the Bill, or to exclude non-food plants and animals (like dogs and cats) from the Bill, and has labelled the term ‘Precision Breeding’ a marketing slogan with ‘no place in the title of the Bill or any future Act’ as it is ‘not a technical or legal term’. 

She said: “It may sound clean and targeted, but look deeper and the dangers and potential unforeseen consequences of genetic modification are there. This is genetically engineered food by the back door, and with none of the labelling that allows consumers to make a choice.

“The science of gene editing is still far too uncertain and has been insufficiently considered or understood by the Government, or adequately scrutinised by parliament. The public and businesses understand the risks better than the government - a majority showed overwhelming opposition to this dangerous legislation when the government consulted on the Bill. 

The Government website describes the bill as designed ‘to make provision about the release and marketing of, and risk assessments relating to, precision bred plants and animals, and the marketing of food and feed produced from such plants and animals; and for connected purposes’. It was put forward by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). 

It has reached its third reading in the House of Lords.