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Government launches gene editing consultation
The 10-week consultation will focus on preventing gene editing in the same way as gene modification.
Move sparks concern for animal welfare.

The UK government has announced plans to consult on gene-edited crops and livestock.

Environment secretary George Eustice said on Thursday (7 January) that gene editing could help farmers with crops resistant to pests, disease or extreme weather, and produce healthier, more nutritious food. 

Under a 2018 legal ruling from the European Court of Justice, gene editing is regulated in the same way as genetic modification. 

Mr Eustice said that the 10-week consultation will focus on preventing them from been regulated in the same way, as long as they have been produced naturally or by a wide range of countries. 

Speaking at the digital Oxford Farming Conference, Mr Eustice said: “Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that mother nature has provided, in order to tackle the challenges of our age. This includes breeding crops that perform better, reducing costs to farmers and impacts on the environment, and helping us all adapt to the challenges of climate change.

“Its potential was blocked by a European Court of Justice ruling in 2018, which is flawed and stifling to scientific progress. Now that we have left the EU, we are free to make coherent policy decisions based on science and evidence. That begins with this consultation.”

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has welcomed the consultation, saying “it could be a very important tool to help us meet the challenges for the future.” 

But the move has sparked concern from the RSPCA, which said it would be a “huge mistake” for government to “water down” the legislation. 

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “The RSPCA is very concerned about government plans to weaken legislation on livestock gene editing in England. This could lead to food from genetically altered animals being offered for sale on supermarket shelves or in restaurants, an unwanted and unacceptable development even if the food were labelled. 

“Over and above the forthcoming government consultation, we would like to see a national debate taking place rather than just rush to deregulate gene editing. There are many questions to be considered and the public has the right to be informed and engaged in this debate and for us all to understand what this means for animal welfare.”

The consultation is now open and will run until Wednesday 17 March.

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Born Free video highlights how humans are to blame for COVID-19

News Story 1
 Wildlife charity Born Free has released a video emphasising the importance of changing the ways in which humans treat wildlife in order to prevent pandemics from occurring in the future.

The video, narrated by founder patron Joanna Lumley OBE, says: "To deal with the very immediate threat of another global catastrophe, we have to focus on ending the destruction and conversion of natural habitats and the devastating impact of the wildlife trade.

"The vast majority of these viruses originated in wild animals before infecting us. Destroying and exploiting nature puts us in closer contact with wildlife than ever before."

Born Free has compiled an online resource with information on how to take action and improve protections for wildlife here.

To view the video, please click here.

Images (c) Jan Schmidt-Burbach. 

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RVC opens 2021 Summer Schools applications

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has opened applications for its 2021 Summer Schools, with students in Years 10, 11 and 12 invited to apply.

Taking place between July and August 2021, the event gives budding vets from all backgrounds first-hand insight into what it's like to study at the Campus.

Much of this year's content is likely to be delivered virtually, including online lectures and practical demonstrations, but the RVC hopes to welcome each of the participants to campus for at least one day to gain some hands-on experience.

For more information about the Schools and to apply, visit: rvc.uk.com/SummerSchools Applications close on the 2 March 2021.