Voters: Tell Would-be MPs to Take PBO Regulation Seriously

June 14, 2024 by admin

Today, the UK GMO campaigns have joined together to urge citizens to write to candidates in their area and demand action on more robust and transparent regulation of genetically engineered, so-called “precision-bred organisms” (PBOs).

Using a new e-platform citizens can easily contact all the candidates in their area at the push of a button to ensure the message is heard.

The recently passed Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act removed labelling, traceability and other important regulatory controls from genetically modified precision bred organisms in our food and farming system. With the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the General Election, steps to make the Act fully operational have been put on hold, giving citizens a rare window of opportunity to influence the agenda of a future government

With this action, we are asking citizens/consumers to take action which will restart the fight to bring about responsible, effective and citizen-responsive regulation of genetic engineering technologies in food and farming in the UK by asking all the candidates in your constituency to commit to taking steps to amending some critical failings in the Act.

Here’s why this is important

In the last Parliament, the combination of a massive Conservative majority, a pro-GM media and research establishment and the timidity of opposition parties led to the passing of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act. The outgoing government argue this was a democratic process but, in reality, it was a process which ignored public opinion and created a piece of legislation that even the government’s own oversight committee labelled as “not fit for purpose”, which removes consumer choice and reduces regulatory control of the majority of GMOs in the farming and food system to a tick box exercise.

Members of the House of Lords who to tried to amend this shoddy piece of legislation were told by the government that amendments “could be seen as being too burdensome a requirement for industry“. The government was described as having a “protective carapace” that prevented serious concerns from making a dent in the bill process.

Just before the general election was called, Defra was in the process of planning the next phase for the Act and we are gearing ourselves up for the hard work of trying to reform the Act so it becomes a responsible, effective and citizen-responsive regulation.

The Act is law, but it is not yet fully operational and needs Parliament to approve some further measures – called ‘statutory instruments’ – to become so. The outgoing Ministers had these prepared and were expecting their majority to see them through “on the nod” during late June/early July.

The election changes everything. An incoming government doesn’t have to accept these statutory instruments in their current form. This means we have a small chance to persuade new Ministers to introduce some important changes.

This is why Beyond GM, GMWatch and GM Freeze have joined together to encourage everyone to take part in this ‘write to your candidates’ action and to seek commitments for some basic reforms to the Act.

Make a difference

Follow this link to write to all the candidates in your area.

Our asks won’t bring about all the reform needed but, if enacted, they will make a significant difference in bringing about transparency, traceability and consumer choice.

The general election will result in a new government, new MPs and a new dynamic in Westminster and in the devolved nations. We can already see from the published manifestos that the push against precaution and for deregulation of technologies will continue whomever is in power. But there is some hope that consumer rights, transparency and traceability won’t be as easily shrugged off as they have been in the last decade or so.

In any case, we want to create and/or energise new dynamics that gives these issues more force and weight.

We need to start now; in part to seed the message in the mindset of MPs and a new Parliament and in part to begin to identify which MPs are likely to be responsive and supportive.

It’s also important to engage the candidates who won’t become MPs because they could put those who might, on the spot and challenge them to think.

This election campaign is an important starting point in the fight-back against deregulation, against diluting consumer and citizens’ rights and against the hollowing out of precaution and care.

It’s a fight we intend to take to Westminster and beyond whichever government is in place.

Use this link to write to your candidates today.