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The British government has granted permission for a series of field trials of gene edited wheat for the first time in Europe, marking a significant move away from the EU’s stance on the matter.

After the green light from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), trials will be carried out by Rothamsted Research Institute, a pioneer of GM crop trials since the 1990s, involving a genetically altered wheat created via the gene editing tool CRISPR.

The Hertfordshire-based experiments will be the first field trials of CRISPR edited wheat anywhere in the UK or Europe.

This technique is designed to introduce small changes to a targeted gene. Although it has been heralded by industry players as game-changing, the use of CRISPR technology remains controversial among other quarters.

A landmark European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in 2018 concluded that organisms obtained by new genomic techniques (NGTs), such as CRISPR, should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive.

However, since leaving the bloc, the UK has signalled a step away from this ruling after England launched a consultation on gene editing in a bid to unlock “substantial benefits” for the sector and the environment.

Source: Natasha Foote – EURACTIVE.com

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