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Future of gene edited crops could be decided at the Royal Welsh as governments set to meet

14 Jun 2022 3 minute read
Royal Welsh picture by Haydn Blackey (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The future of gene edited crops in the UK could be decided at the Royal Welsh, with the UK and devolved governments set to hold talks on scrapping the ban there.

The UK Government is seeking to get rid of EU rules on gene editing while the Scottish and Welsh governments have opposed the move, preferring to stay aligned with Europe.

Tory ministers plan to try to persuade devolved counterparts to align on policy at a cross-government meeting on July 20 at the Royal Welsh Show in Powys, according to the Times newspaper.

George Eustice, the UK environment secretary, will lead the talks.

Under the Internal Market Act 2020, items that meet regulatory standards in one part of the country must be allowed to be sold elsewhere in the UK.

The Welsh and Scottish Governments described the act as a “power grab” which impacted their ability to deviate from Westminster.


In a letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, Scottish Government environment minister Mairi McAllan said Scotland would not make the same changes as England if the Bill passed.

“The Scottish Government remains wholly opposed to the imposition of the Internal Market Act, and will not accept any constraint on the exercise of its devolved powers to set standards within devolved policy areas,” she said.

Ms McAllan urged ministers to ensure Scotland is not impacted by the legislation, saying: “If the UK Government is determined to press ahead with this legislation, it must take steps to ensure that its revisions to the definition of a GMO (genetically modified organism) do not force products on Scotland which do not meet standards here without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.”

She also raised concerns about the impact of the Bill on Scotland’s food exports to the EU.

“As your impact assessment for the Genetic Technologies (Precision Breeding) Bill acknowledges, removing gene-edited products from England’s GM regulatory regime would mean divergence from the EU approach and as such could have implications for compliance costs and future trade,” she wrote.


A UK government source however told the Times: “We believe there are clear benefits for Scotland from gene editing technology and that is reflected in the very strong support we have already seen from farmers and the scientific community.

“We will continue to make the case but we absolutely understand the Scottish government will want to study the bill and consider the whole debate around gene editing in greater detail. We stand ready to support with that.

“The bill is only just beginning its passage through parliament and there is plenty of time before the Scottish government needs to make a final decision.”

In February, the Court of Appeal dismissed the case brought by the Welsh Government challenging the UK Internal Market Act.

The Court of Appeal upheld the earlier decision of the High Court that the case was brought prematurely, saying that only when there is a specific Senedd Bill whose potential effect is said to be diminished by the Act can the Court make a decision.

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