Have your say on the new gene-edited food consultation
Robin May, Chief Scientific Advisor at The Food Standards Agency (FSA), discusses DEFRA’s consultation into the regulation of genetic technologies and urges the public’s participation in the scheme.
Many of you will have seen media coverage at the start of the year which signalled the launch of a public consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs into the regulation of genetic technologies.
Its particular focus was gene-edited (GE) organisms, but it also encompassed wider discussion on a future framework for regulating all genetically modified organisms. These are often collectively referred to as GMOs.
The consultation will examine whether current legislation can be adjusted now that the UK has left the EU, which has its own regulations around the use of GMOs in the food industry.
At the FSA, we welcome this open and transparent process and will take a keen interest in the responses when the consultation closes on 17 March. Whatever your viewpoint on these technologies, I would encourage you to please take part and share your thoughts.
You may also find it helpful to watch the brief FSA Explains GE video, which outlines how gene editing works and includes some of its main uses within the food industry.
The UK prides itself on having the very highest standards of food safety, and it is important to state that there are strict controls on GM crops, seeds and foods that the FSA will continue to apply moving forward.
GE foods, for example, will only be permitted if they are judged to be safe to eat, not misleading to consumers, and don’t have less nutritional value than that which is currently on the market.
Finally, I’d like to make it very clear that our responsibility as a regulator is to you, the consumer. As such, all our decisions and advice to government Ministers is based on robust appropriate risk assessments that rely on the best available science.
We are responsible for ensuring the food you eat is safe and authentic. This has been the case for 20 years and remains the fundamental principle behind everything we do at the FSA.
About the author
Professor Robin May took up his role as the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in July 2020. He provides expert scientific advice to the UK Government and plays a critical role in helping to understand how scientific developments will shape the work of the FSA, as well as the strategic implications of any possible changes.
Professor May’s early training was in Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford, followed by a PhD on mammalian cell biology at University College London and the University of Birmingham. Following postdoctoral research on gene silencing at the Hubrecht Laboratory, Netherlands, he returned to the UK in 2005 to establish a research programme on human infectious diseases. From 2017 to 2020, he was Director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, where he continues to work on Infectious Diseases alongside his FSA role.