BRITISH scientists are poised to “easily out-compete” their counterparts in the EU as Brexit has opened the floodgates for groundbreaking genetic engineering and research to hit the markets.
Since 2001, the European Union has followed a stringent set of rules on the development of genetically modified organisms or GMOs. According to the EU, the laws are in place to safeguard public health, the wellbeing of animals and the environment, and to ensure the traceability of GMO products on the market. Many scientists, however, feel the rules are out of touch with the rapid pace at which gene-splicing technology has developed and Brexit could finally give the UK an edge over the economic bloc.
British scientists are already developing crops and livestock that are healthier and less prone to disease by altering their DNA.
And thanks to Brexit, there is no red tape in the way that might have otherwise prevented these products from hitting supermarket shelves.
A team of researchers outside Edinburgh, for instance, is modifying the DNA of chickens to make them genetically immune to the bird flu.
Although the UK has been declared free of avian influenza last month, new strains of the bird flu virus could still crop up in the future and trigger a livestock epidemic.
Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, meanwhile, have developed an indigo-coloured tomato that has twice the antioxidants of blueberries.
According to a report in The Times, the bizarre fruit was shown to extend the lifespan of cancer-prone mice.
Last month it was also revealed British scientists are using CRISPR technology to develop a “cancer-cutting wheat”.
The new crop would grow with lower levels of asparagine, which is converted to acrylamide when wheat is used to make bread and toast, which was found to cause cancer in rodents.
Since 2012, CRISPR has revolutionised the field of gene editing but the EU has not kept up with the developments.
And Professor Cathie Martin at the John Innes Centre has now warned the EU will need to reassess its Luddite stance on the technology “or European breeding companies will be easily out-competed by the countries that do allow gene editing”.
The economic bloc has previously come under fire for its rules and regulations, with the 2001 directive being branded “not fit for purpose”.
Just three years ago the European courts controversially ruled to apply. “Brinkwire Summary News”.