The government is twisting science and twisting the concept of “natural” to force genetically modified, unlabeled foods onto our plates.
Environment Secretary George Eustice promotes gene editing as a precision science – a science that has all the upsides, no downsides. Much of the media fell in love with this reassuring but completely misleading sales pitch, when in fact genome editing is just another form of risky genetic engineering.
Gene editing is not just capture or modification. In addition to any intentional genetic modification, it invariably involves a large number of unintended alterations to the plant or animal in question. It can also lead to multiple cuts in an organism‘s DNA and the insertion of foreign genes.
For example, Professor Cathie Martin, who led the development of the genetically modified tomato which could be the first such crop to go on sale in the UK, told the National that the process had inserted foreign genes which had been removed before the final. plant was placed on the market.
And have no doubt that, as the European Court of Justice has ruled, gene editing does indeed create genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Yet, if the UK government got away with its new legislation, it would allow plants created using foreign genes to be classed as ‘natural’ and they would be exempt from regulation and labelling.
This should alarm us. A recent experience in the United States serves as a timely warning of how this volatile technology produces unpredictable, negative and irreversible results.
Georgia State University researchers have just reported how their gene-editing experiment to reduce aggression in hamsters failed when their “precision” alterations bred ultra-vicious rodents instead. In other words, scientists anticipated a favorable outcome, but got the opposite result.
In food, the most obvious risks of gene editing are the production of toxins and allergens that can harm human and animal health. Who has appetite for that?
Last year’s government consultation revealed that 88% of citizens do not want genetically modified foods to be treated differently from other genetically modified products.
Is it any wonder that, very reasonably, no UK supermarket is willing to say they will stock GM foods?