The United Kingdom paves the way for the cultivation of genome-edited plants

The United Kingdom paves the way for the cultivation of genome-edited plants

The British Parliament has passed a law that facilitates the cultivation of genome-edited plants. For research and science, the change brings enormous benefits: Plants bred by genome editing will be easier to grow and test in the field in the future. Many promising applications are already in the pipeline.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The online portal "Farminguk" reports on the new framework conditions for the cultivation of genome-edited plants in the United Kingdom. With the amendment of the law, the UK is aligning its framework in the field of new breeding methods with countries such as Australia, Japan, Argentina, Brazil and the USA. And it is now equal to the technology-friendly countries. The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), a renowned plant research group based in Cambridge, welcomes the decision. Genome editing is a tool with great potential for plant breeding. It enables the same genetic changes as conventional breeding methods. However, genome editing is "much more precise and efficient."


Benefits for agriculture, the environment and consumers

The managing director of NIAB, Mario Caccamo, is convinced that the UK will strengthen its leading position in the field of plant genetics through the legal adjustment. It is true that the NIAB has been working with new breeding methods for years. However, up until now the research could only be carried out in the laboratory or in greenhouses. That is about to change. Caccamo says genome editing can help breed new plants that can better withstand climate change and require fewer fertilizers and pesticides. The NIAB has some concrete projects in the pipeline: Wheat resistant to fungal diseases, wheat that is safe for those with celiac disease, variations in flowering time in strawberries and features of the root architecture in durum wheat.


Boost for plant proteins

The adapted framework conditions give a boost to the production of more domestic plant protein sources. Genome editing can improve the potential of pulses such as peas, beans and soya. They are more climate-friendly and sustainable sources of protein than many animal products. Caccamo says: "The focus of research in the field of genome editing is on the development of cultivation systems that are less dependent on pesticides and fertilizers and that reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change." These are all important objectives that are shared across the political spectrum.

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