A new Bill making its way through parliament will remove unnecessary barriers to gene editing technology, Farming Minister Mark Spencer told the Oxford Farming Conference.
Mr Spencer said the Government was ‘grasping the opportunities of leaving the EU and bringing new technologies into the sector’.
“Our Farming Innovation Programme already has over 150 projects underway and we will be investing £270 million in research and innovation that will boost productivity and enhance the environment,” he said.
“And the Gene Technology Bill currently going through Parliament will allow us to remove unnecessary barriers to research into new gene editing technology so we can develop new traits more precisely and more efficiently than traditional breeding techniques.
“The potential benefits are huge: resistance to drought, pests and disease, lower costs, more nutritious food and lower environmental impact will of course be some of the benefits we hope to achieve.”
While the initial focus of Defra’s drive to unleash the benefits of gene editing appears to be on the crop sector, the ‘potential impact of gene editing for farmed animals is paradigm shifting’, PIC’s Craig Lewis said. PIC is involved in the development of pigs that have been bred using gene editing technology to be resistant to PRRS.
“In UK or global agriculture today, we as producers and breeders are tasked to contribute to societal issues as well as producing safe, nutritious, and tasty products,” he told Pig World.
“Genome Editing gives agriculture the potential to address major causes of animal welfare, reduce antibiotic use, ease management, and improve sustainability.
“While there is no ‘magic bullet’ to all issues we face, Genome Editing to address challenges such as endemic disease, like PRRS, is a new era for our industry.
“The current Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill that is in the House of Lords has the potential for English agriculture to take a globally leading position in the development and utilisation of this Technology and keep English products in a globally recognised leadership position when it comes to welfare and sustainability.”
Other Policy developments to look out for in 2023
There are a number of policy developments to keep an eye for this year, including:
- Defra’s Review of Contractual Practice in the UK Pig Sector – Defra’s summary of responses, setting out its position, is expected in early 2023.
- Retained EU Law Bill – Currently making its way through parliament, it could bring various challenges and opportunities as EU laws are replaced with UK versions.
- Agriculture Transition plan – Defra will continue to roll out new schemes for England to replace CAP schemes, providing some grant opportunities.
- Animal Health and Welfare Pathway – The Pig Pathway will continue to roll out with vet-led Annual Health and Welfare Reviews, small grants and payment by results coming later in 2023.
- UK Veterinary Medicine Regulatory Review – This post-Brexit review of veterinary medicines and medicated feeds, was due late 2022 but has been delayed again, according to the National Office of Animal Health.
- Disease of Swine Regulations – This will cover regionalisation in the event of an ASF outbreak in the UK.
- Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill – Making its way through Parliament now, this Bill could have implication for ability to, for example, breed PRRS-resistant pigs using gene editing techniques.
- Future of farrowing crates – This has gone quiet, as Government recognises the crisis the pig sector has been through, but the campaigning on the topic continues.
- Welfare labelling – Government is insistent this is what consumers want – a consultation is expected in the Spring.
- Welfare at transport – There will be more to come on this in 2023.