When the United Kingdom finally implements Brexit, it could have a new approach to genetically modified crops.
UK’s newly-minted Prime Minister Boris Johnson clearly spelled out his preference to embrace biotechnology in a speech shortly after his election. He said:
Let’s liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules. Let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.
Contrary to popular belief, the European Union doesn’t actually ban all genetically modified crops. Instead, the EU has a safety assessment process through the European Food Safety Authority. Member states have some autonomy on whether they can allow GMO cultivation. But currently the EFSA has only authorized one Monsanto trait to be use commercially: the Bt protein.
The EU’s approach though is very restrictive and regressive. Traits which have been safely used for decades in other parts of the world don’t have authorization. And that means European farmers are at a huge disadvantage when adopting sustainable practices, for which we all suffer.
So Johnson’s statement is welcome news. And it could open the UK as a potential export market for U.S. farmers. (The UK doesn’t grow much corn…at all.) In fact, as the U.S. enter negotiations for a post-EU UK, biotechnology has been a major point of contention.
I also suspect Johnson’s position could spur more research and advancement from the UK’s formidable science sector. That means we could see an increase in traits and research.
Of course, that will only happen if the UK successfully finds a way to leave the EU. And the politics of that are way beyond me. But I’m optimistic that the UK’s prime minister is taking such a bold approach to biotechnology!