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 “Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.”

Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels (1726)

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Sustainable food and farming policies must be rooted in science, says new policy group

                                                                                     

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Gene editing: Leading plant breeder warns that unwarranted ‘just in case’ provisions in Precision Breeding Bill could scupper plans for UK-based investment

  

“The devil is in the detail,” says plant breeder Nigel Moore, warning that Ministers’ ambitions to make Britain an agri-science superpower may fall at the first hurdle:

  

"The clear premise behind the Bill is that the breeding outcomes under consideration are only, and precisely, those involving genetic changes that could occur in nature or in traditional breeding.  So how on earth can there be any rationale to add this potentially significant regulatory burden of risk assessment that does not apply if the same genetic changes are achieved in a different way?  That is a massive disincentive to use modern innovation and the most likely outcome, if this part of the Bill remains, will be a failure to address the urgency of improving the sustainability of our food production."

"The EFSA Scientific Opinion of November 2020 and recent technical guidance from Health Canada have confirmed that Precision Bred Organisms (PBOs) pose no additional food safety risks compared to conventionally bred plant varieties. Indeed, the Health Canada guidance clearly states that no additional safety assurances or knowledge would be gained through extra regulation of PBO foods or plants beyond existing plant variety and seeds regulations."

"Along with others, I will be urging lawmakers in both Houses to follow the science and not create unnecessary barriers to these more precise methods of genetic improvement which will be urgently needed to tackle the looming food security and climate crisis."

Read full article HERE

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Science for Sustainable Agriculture news

Precision Breeding Bill: let’s focus the debate on using scientific innovation for public good, says aquaculture breeder Alan Tinch

 

It was disappointing that a minority of MPs used last week’s Second Reading debate on the Precision Breeding Bill to articulate their prejudice against modern livestock farming by suggesting that the legislation would be a step backwards for farm animal welfare.  

 

Disappointing, but perhaps not entirely surprising given the high-profile campaigns by organisations such as Compassion in World Farming to draw an (unjustified) association between technological advance and worse outcomes for farm animal welfare.

 

This isn’t a debate about whether or not we should farm livestock.  We should be considering how new technology can be used to make farming even more sustainable, and deliberating ways to improve the health and welfare of livestock.

Read article...

Intensive livestock farming may actually reduce the risk of pandemics

Harriet Bartlett, University of Cambridge

 

It is often asserted that intensive livestock systems increase the risk of zoonotic diseases, and this argument is used to make the case for a switch to more extensive, lower yielding farming practices.

 

In November 2020, for example, in the wake of the COVID19 outbreak, the Soil Association described the pandemic in terms of a wake-up call from Mother Nature to return to more traditional farming practices. “It feels to me as if the coronavirus pandemic is nature giving humanity one last chance to stop, take stock and to set a new course,” said chief executive Helen Browning.

 

However, research by a team of ecologists and veterinary scientists at the Universities of Cambridge and Leeds has scrutinised the scientific basis for this general argument, and instead found the evidence to be much more mixed, and indeed that intensive livestock farming could in fact reduce the risk of future pandemics. 

 

Read full article...

Is the Prince of Wales quietly shifting his position on genetic engineering, asks economist Graham Brookes

 

Given the Prince of Wales’s new-found admiration for the power of the private sector to deliver science-based solutions to the Covid pandemic, his willingness to use and endorse the products of GM research and development, and the demonstrable track record over more than two decades of safe and positive environmental benefits behind biotech in food and agriculture, would it be too much to suggest that Prince Charles might actually acknowledge the inconsistency of accepting and applauding the use of biotechnology in medicine but demonising their use in food and agriculture?  

 

Read full article...

Leading UK scientists regret ScotGov’s stance on gene editing

Two of Britain’s most eminent scientists have expressed their disappointment that precision breeding techniques such as gene editing have become a ‘political football’ in a stand-off between Holyrood and Westminster, highlighting key opportunities to use these technologies to improve the quality and sustainability of Scotland’s top food export – farmed salmon.

Read more...

Health Canada’s approach to gene editing regulation offers a genuinely science-based model for others to follow, argues regulatory expert Karen Holt

 

It is widely agreed that access to more precise breeding techniques such as gene editing will be urgently needed to address looming food supply, climate change and sustainable farming goals, for example through the development of higher-yielding, more pest and disease resistant crop varieties less dependent on chemical inputs of pesticides and fertilisers.

 

However, recent publication of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill has prompted serious questions from Britain’s plant breeders, scientists and others about the extent to which it will truly support the Government’s ambition to liberate the commercial use and deployment of these techniques.

Read more....

Unethical not to embrace gene editing for improved farm animal health and welfare

 

Leading figures from the veterinary, scientific and livestock community challenge the ‘anti-science’ stance of RSPCA in opposing Precision Breeding Bill

 

Precision breeding technologies can help accelerate the development of major health and welfare boosting traits such as PRRS resistance in pigs and bird flu resistance in poultry, and the RSPCA is wrong to claim there are ‘more ethical and humane ways’ to solve these challenges, say leading figures from the veterinary, genetic science, breeding and farming sectors.

 

Read more...

Battlefields of knowledge: how Britain’s coming debates over food and agriculture will play out

Antony So, CapX, June 2022

Battlefields of knowledge: how Britain’s coming debates over food and agriculture will play out - CapX

The future for sustainable agriculture does not lie in turning back the clock. It must be rooted in science

Julian Sturdy MP, AgFunder News, June 2022

The future for UK sustainable agriculture does not lie in turning back clock (agfundernews.com)

Logical Fallacies Bootcamp: Appeal to Nature

Witgren for Truth Sandwiches, Daily Kos, June 2022  

Logical Fallacies Bootcamp: Appeal to Nature (dailykos.com)

 

New research confirms that GM corn is safe for beneficial insects

Joan Conrow, Alliance for Science, June 2022

New research confirms that GM corn is safe for beneficial insects - Alliance for Science (cornell.edu)

 

Biotechnology vs. Agroecology: Towards a win-win strategy for food security

Henry Lutaaya, The Sunrise, June 2022

Biotechnology vs Agroecology; Towards a win-win strategy for food security – Sunrise

Europe must back agricultural innovation to help alleviate looming food crisis

Nicholas Waller, New Europe, June 2022

Europe must back agricultural innovation to help alleviate looming food crisis | New Europe

UK’s move on gene-edited crops is a step forward – but consumer perceptions need to shift

Mark Tufnell, The Grocer, June 2022

UK’s move on gene-edited crops is a step forward – but consumer perceptions need to shift | Comment & Opinion | The Grocer

Definitions matter

The Risk-Monger, Blog, June 2022

Definitions matter – The Risk-Monger

The case for genetically edited food

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, NZ Herald, May 2022

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth: The case for genetically edited food - NZ Herald

In Defense Of Britain's CRISPR, Vitamin-D Fortified Tomato

Cameron English, American Council on Science and Health, May 2022

In Defense Of Britain's CRISPR, Vitamin-D Fortified Tomato | American Council on Science and Health (acsh.org)

 

Fields of research that’s now more vital than ever

Colin Campbell, James Hutton Institute, May 2022

Fields of research that's now more vital than ever | The James Hutton Institute