We’ve scanned the web to bring together a library of interesting, thought-provoking articles, blogs, reports and academic papers that explore the issue of genetic engineering in food and farming from broader and deeper perspectives. Browse for inspiration or search by theme.

Currently showing only Legislation & Regulation Resources
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The EU legislative framework for a sustainable food system: How can it effectively deliver for the environment and people?

Publication date: 08/09/2023

In its Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission announced that it will present a legislative framework for a sustainable food system, an initiative expected for the third quarter of 2023.

The vision reflected in the law proposal will have a critical impact on the EU’s capacity to build its resilience against the worsening climate and biodiversity crises while guaranteeing long-term accessibility to healthy food.

The briefing presents solutions in the form of actionable tools that can best ensure the swift implementation of a sustainable EU food system on the ground. The European Commission must go ahead with its proposal and publish it in September 2023; there is no better time.

Resource type: article: Web Page

Beyond the Genome: Genetically Modified Crops in Africa and the Implications for Genome Editing

Publication date: 01/01/2023

This article makes two interventions. First, it identifies the discursive continuity linking genome editing and the earlier technology of genetic modification. Second, it offers a suite of recommendations regarding how lessons learned from GM crops might be integrated into future breeding programmes focused on genome editing. Ultimately, the authors argue that donors, policymakers and scientists should move beyond the genome towards systems-level thinking by prioritizing the co-development of technologies with farmers; using plant material that is unencumbered by intellectual property restrictions and therefore accessible to resource-poor farmers; and acknowledging that seeds are components of complex and dynamic agroecological production systems. If these lessons are not heeded, genome-editing projects are in danger of repeating mistakes of the past

Resource type: article: Web Page

With great power comes great responsibility: why ‘safe enough’ is not good enough in debates on new gene technologies

Publication date: 25/10/2022

To avoid past mistakes of under- or miscommunication about possible impacts, we need open, transparent, and inclusive societal debate on the nature of the science of gene (editing) technologies, on how to use them, and whether they contribute to sustainable solutions to societal and environmental challenges. To be trustworthy, GMO regulation must demonstrate the authorities’ ability to manage the scientific, socio-economic, environmental, and ethical complexities and uncertainties associated with NGTs. Regulators and authorities should give equal attention to the reflexive and the emotional aspects of trust and make room for honest public and stakeholder inclusion processes.

Resource type: article: Web Page

Genetic engineering, nature conservation and biological diversity: boundaries of design

Publication date: 01/10/2022

Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) presents its position on an international discussion surrounding research approaches to the genetic modification of wild organisms. Conclusions include:

  • Due to the complexity of biological diversity – from the molecular to the ecosystem level – the effects of genetically engineering wild organisms cannot be sufficiently assessed with the methods currently available.
  • The fundamental and necessary discussions on the compatibility of genetically engineering wild organisms with the requirements and the objectives laid down in section 1 of the German Federal Nature Conservation Act must be conducted.
  • Global biodiversity loss is progressing with tangible consequences. We need suitable instruments to stop it. Nevertheless, wild organisms must not be genetically modified solely based on the assumption of a potential benefit to nature conservation and with uncertainty about possible harm.
  • Along with its diversity, beauty and utility, nature’s uniqueness is a protected good in nature conservation that is firmly embedded in society and in legislation. Its intrinsic value imposes limits on the extent to which humans can intervene in nature to protect it. I
Resource type: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf)

The principles driving gene drives for conservation

Publication date: 01/09/2022

Scientists are exploring potential gene drive applications for managing invasive species and building resilience in keystone species threatened by climate change. The possibility to use gene drive for these conservation purposes has triggered significant interest in how to govern its development and eventual applications. We conducted qualitative documentary analysis to examine the range and substance of principles emerging in the governance of conservation gene drive. Such analysis aimed to better understand the aspirations guiding these applications and how scientists and other experts imagine their responsibility in this field. We found a collection of recommendations and prescriptions that could be organised into a set of seven emerging principles intended to shape the governance of gene drive in conservation: broad and empowered engagement; public acceptance; decision-making informed by broad ranging considerations, state and international collaboration; ethical frameworks; diverse expertise; and responsible self-regulation by developers. We lay bare these emergent principles, analyzing the way in which they are valued, prioritized, and their strengths and weaknesses.

Resource type: article: Web Page

Imagined futures for livestock gene editing: Public engagement in the Netherlands

Publication date: 01/08/2022

While gene editing is commonly represented as offering unbounded possibilities and societal benefit, it remains unclear how to characterise public views and the process through which responses are developed. Rather than simply being about individual attitudes, beliefs or preferences, we explicate an interpretative approach that seeks to understand how people make sense of the technology in the form of shared cultural idioms and stories. Based on five anticipatory focus group discussions with Dutch publics, we found the prevalence of five narratives shaping public talk, namely, technological fix, the market rules, in pursuit of perfection, finding the golden mean and governance through care. We explore the implications of these findings for governance and reflect on the virtues of sophrosyne and phronesis as offering ways to reconfigure the practice and politics of gene editing.

Resource type: article: Web Page

The complexity of the gene and the precision of CRISPR: What is the gene that is being edited?

Publication date: 26/10/2021
This article argues that the polarization around the governance of gene editing partly reflects a failure of public engagement with the current state of research in genomics and postgenomics. CRISPR-based gene-editing technology has become embedded in a narrow narrative about the ease and precision of the technique that presents the gene as a stable object under technological control. This narrative fails to position the “ease of CRISPR-based editing” into the wider context of the “complexity of the gene.” While this strategic narrowness of CRISPR narratives aims to create public support for gene-editing technologies, we argue that it stands in the way of socially desirable anticipatory governance and open public dialogue about societal promises and the unintended consequences of gene editing. In addressing the polarization surrounding CRISPR-based editing technology, the article emphasizes the need for engagement with the complex state of postgenomic science that avoids strategic simplifications of the scientific literature in promoting or opposing the commercial use of the gene-editing technology.

Resource type: article: Web Page

How to Do What Is Right, Not What Is Easy: Requirements for Assessment of Genome-Edited and Genetically Modified Organisms under Ethical Guidelines

Publication date: 24/06/2021

An ethical assessment is a complex, dynamic and comprehensive process that requires both ethical expertise and practical knowledge. An ethical assessment of a genetically modified organism (GMO, including genome edited organisms) must follow accepted and transparent methods and be based in relevant considerations. In addition, the Ethical guidelines must include a broad and adequate range of values, so that no groups, stakeholders, agents or areas are left out.

We recommend that ethical assessments of GMOs (including genome-edited organisms) are performed by professionals with competence and practical knowledge of ethical judgements, and that users, non-users, stakeholders and interest groups are actively involved. In addition, we recommend that the Ethical guidelines include a wide range of ethical values.

Resource type: article: Web Page

Democratizing CRISPR? Stories, practices, and politics of science and governance on the agricultural gene editing frontier

Publication date: 25/02/2020
Resource type: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf)

Brexit food safety legislation and potential implications for UK trade: the devil in the details

Publication date: 31/10/2019

This Briefing Paper from the  UK Trade Policy Observatory and Chatham House examines an array of post-Brexit food safety legislation, covering pesticides, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), food additives and microbiological food safety.

The UK Government has committed itself to incorporating EU law unchanged as the starting point for the post-Brexit regulatory regime. However, EU institutions underpin UK food safety legislation to the extent that detaching UK law and policy making unavoidably constitutes major legislative reform. More concerningly, our analysis suggests that the UK’s post-Brexit food safety rules fall short of the level of protection currently provided by the EU: in some cases, they give ministers broad discretion to make future changes without equivalent scrutiny.

Resource type: article: Web Page