United Kingdom

Updates + Overviews

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  • The UK Government's Genetic Technology Bill is part way through the Parliamentary process. It has passed the first two main stages in the House of Commons but still has the "report stage and third reading" to come after summer recess. That could be any time after 5 September, and we will probably have about a week's notice.  Civil Society groups are working to get amendments organised, but these can only limit some of the damage and it will be very hard to get anything through as the Conservative Government has a huge majority. 
  • After all the stages in the House of Commons, the Bill will move to the House of Lords. The Government doesn't currently have a majority in the Lords but that could change if Boris Johnson creates lots of new "life peers" through his resignation honours list.  Again, we are unlikely to know what's happening until just before it happens.
  • Overall, my personal hope is for an early General Election as all bills then die and have to start again with the new Government, even if it is the same party. Although that might mean we see something very similar come back, we have learnt a lot through the process so far and would be better placed to effectively oppose. Also, even if the Conservatives won again, surely they would have a smaller majority?  [assuming voters have been paying attention!]

  • The Bill itself is very bad for many reasons:

    • It creates a whole new class of "precision bred" organisms but the definition for these is unscientific and full of holes. In fact, the bill starts with a page of definition and we would dispute almost all of them!
    • These "precision bred" organisms will be treated as non-GM and subject to barely any scrutiny, all on the basis of self-declaration.
    • There is no labelling, traceability or plan to prevent contamination by these "precision bred" GMOs.
    • Animals are included, even though the Government said they would not be.
    • Most of the key details are to come later in regulations that will be created through secondary legislation that does not get much (if any) scrutiny. The bill creates the power for Government to do this but not the obligation so we could see an extended period of confusion with the bill enacted but missing regulatory details.

  • The bill only applies directly to England (agriculture and food are devolved responsibilities) BUT the Internal Market Act will stop Scotland or Wales from doing anything to stop "precision bred organisms" from entering their food chain, even though they will be – in Welsh and Scottish law – unauthorised GMOs.  Northern Ireland currently follows EU rules but that is another very delicate political situation.
  • Usefully, a Government-appointed committee (the Regulatory Policy Committee) has ruled the Government's own Impact Assessment of the bill as "not fit for purpose". This is a very rare thing so various civil society organisations are working to make some use of it. What is really shocking is that these Impact Assessments only concern economic and business impacts of proposed legislation, so this is a ruling that the Government doesn't even understand the business issues, never mind caring about science or the environment! 
  • The bill has brought some of the bigger civil society organisations to the table BUT there is so much to fight in the UK at the moment that it is still very hard to persuade anyone with big reach to prioritise this one. 

(Update provided by GM Freeze 2022 July) 


Scotland: Scottish Government Policy on Genetically Modified (GM) Crops

The Scottish Government is opposed to the cultivation of GM crops. The cultivation of GM crops could damage Scotland's rich environment and would threaten our reputation for producing high quality and natural foods. It would damage Scotland's image as a land of food and drink.

2 GMO-Free council areas: West Lothian and Moray

Wales: Weish Govenment Policy on Genetically modified organisms

The Welsh Government takes the most restrictive stance possible to Genetically Modified (GM) crops that is consistent with European and UK law. Our mission is to develop policies to underpin this stance, and to take them forward and convey them in both UK and EU arenas. European legislation governing the use of GM crops makes it clear that all forms of agriculture, be it conventional, organic or 'agriculture using genetically modified organisms' must be allowed to coexist within the EU. Consequently, a blanket ban on GM crop cultivation by the Assembly would be considered illegal. Wales is a founder member of GM Free Network of Regions, which was established by 10 European regions in 2003. The Network is now made up of 53 European Regions and local authorities. The Welsh Government sits on the Network's steering group. The role of the Network is to share information about the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops.  The Network is also trying to introduce GMO-free areas in Europe that are recognized by European law.

9 GMO-free County Councils: Caerphilly, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys, Swansea.

25 Community Councils: Blaenhonddan, Brecon Town Council, Coedffranc Community Council, Glyn Ceiriog Community Council, Felinfach Community Council, Gorslas Community Council, Halkyn Community Council, Haverfordwest Town Council, Llanarthne Community Council, Llanbedrog Community Council, Llanddaniel-Fab Community Council, Llandegla Community Council, Llandyfaelog Community Council, Llangattock Vibon Avel Community Council, Llangernyw Community Council, Llangynwyd Middle Community Council, Llannefydd Community Council, Machynlleth Community Council, Magor with Undy Community Council, Milford Haven Town Council, Neyland Town Council, Porthmadog Town Council, Rhyl Town Council, St Davids City Council, Ystrad Fflur Community Council.

The Welsh Assembly and the Highlands and Islands Region have adopted a GM-free policy. They signed the Florence Charter and are members of the European network of GMO-free regions


(Updated in June 2014 by Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland)




17 County councils: Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Herefordshire, Warwickshire, Lancashire, Shropshire, Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Suffolk,

11 Unitary authorities: Bath and North East Somerset, Brighton and Hove City Council, Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire, York City Council, Bournemouth, East Riding of Yorkshire, Wokingham, Isle of Wight, Leeds, Medway,

3 Metropolitan districts: Newcastle, Dudley Metropolitan Borough council, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council

2 London boroughs: London Borough of Southwark, London Borough of Havering

16 District councils: South Hams (Devon), South Somerset, Penwith (SW), Ryedale, Chesterfield, Wealden (E Sussex), Mid Devon, Weymouth, West Lindsey, Colchester, Gravesham, West Dorset, Lewes, North Dorset, NE Derbyshire, Scarborough Borough Council,

7 Town/Parish councils: Bridport (Dorset), Norton Radstock (within Bath & NE Somerset), Goole (East Yorkshire), Edenthorpe Parish Council, Corscombe, Halstock & District (Cornwall), Stickney (Lincolnshire),

Other background information

GMO-free Britain, Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth, Berlin, January 2005
The Mid Devon District Council, England, Matthew Burgess, Councillor of Mid Devon District Council, Berlin, January 2005
GM-Crop Trials in the UK
GM Watch: Review of the GM issue in the UK in 2004
GM Watch: Review of the GM issue in Scotland 2004
GM Food Debate organized in 2003 by the Food Standards Agency
Consumer views of GM food, Food Standards Agency, July 2002
US Department of Agriculture: Annual Agricultural Biotech Report