Internal Market Bill’s “non-discrimination clause” means Holyrood, the Senedd, and Stormont will be powerless to bar gene-edited goods produced in England from being sold within their borders
EXCERPT: “I know that in Northern Ireland and Scotland… people there quite rightly think ‘well this is happening in England it doesn’t really affect me’, but actually, those trucks are going to roll across the borders. It is coming,” Shane Holland, the executive chair of the UK board of worldwide campaign group Slow Food, told The National.
Scotland and EU warned as England looks to legalise genetically edited food
By Xander Richards
The National, 22 Feb 2021
THE devolved nations have been warned that trucks of genetically edited (GE) food “are going to roll across the borders” as England looks to legalise the technology post-Brexit.
Although the regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is devolved, the Internal Market Bill’s “non-discrimination clause” means that Holyrood, the Senedd, and Stormont will be powerless to bar GE goods produced in England from being sold within their borders.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched a consultation on a law change around GMOs in early January, but campaigners say the Government has “already made its mind up”.
“I know that in Northern Ireland and Scotland… people there quite rightly think ‘well this is happening in England it doesn’t really affect me’, but actually, those trucks are going to roll across the borders. It is coming,” Shane Holland, the executive chair of the UK board of worldwide campaign group Slow Food, told The National.
“It is scandalous. I say that as a non-Scot. And [GMOs] will be in Europe for the same reason. It will go into Northern Ireland and once it’s in Northern Ireland it will cross the border and it will be Europe-wide. It’s going to be everywhere,” he added.
Asked if the Northern Ireland protocol’s article 16 may be used to introduce checks to prevent the export of GE food to Europe, Holland said: “The barrier issue in Northern Ireland is really interesting because we believe that the food won’t be labelled ... if there’s no labelling then you would literally have to genetic test every item of food. That’s going to be impossible.”
The Slow Food UK chair said there is “real concern” in Europe around this.
Defra has neither confirmed nor denied that there will be no labelling of GE foods should the law be changed to allow their sale and production in England. A spokesperson said they are currently “gathering views on the implications for labelling”.
Holland also hit out at the ongoing consultation process, saying that the process is “flawed” and accusing the Government of failing to follow its own rules.
Westminster’s consultation principles, published in 2018, state that the process should not be launched for “issues on which [ministers] already have a final view”.
Holland said, “Defra has already stated what they wish to happen. They’ve already stated what they believe all the benefits to be, so I would suggest that there is not so much of a consultation happening. They’ve already made their mind up. The process is flawed. They’re not following their own rules.”
A Defra spokesperson said the consultation “seeks to understand the impacts of our proposal not to regulate GE organisms as GMOs”.
GE is slightly different from GM. While the latter involves inserting new genes into a DNA strand, GE involves the cutting and removing of undesirable parts of genes. [GMW: This is misleading. Gene editing *is* a GM technique. It differs from older-style transgenic GM in how the genetic disruption and damage occurs. Gene editing can and does sometimes insert new genes, both intentionally and unintentionally by mistake.] Neither technology is allowed under EU law, which classifies both as genetic modification.
Several top Tories, including Environment Secretary George Eustice and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have already made clear their support for the introduction of GEOs in England with Brexit meaning the UK need not “slavishly follow” EU law.