3rd April 2023
New legislation and multimillion-pound funding into improving agriculture-focussed technology have been approved by the government, ushering in opportunities to improve innovation and growth in food production.
With the passing of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act into law, farmers are enabled to grow crops which are drought and disease resistant, as well as breeding animals that are protected from catching harmful diseases, enabling the creation of more flexible and adaptable foods. The Act also aims to tackle environmental concerns with the reduction in the usage of fertilisers and pesticides.
The Act has been welcomed by many, with biologists at Oxford University saying it “unlocks the potential to provide faster and more sustainable solutions to the problems facing agriculture today” whilst “reducing the impact of agriculture on the natural world”.
The moral implications of what the law allows, however, have also been criticised, with the RSPCA having expressed its “serious animal welfare and ethical concerns” over the potential for procedures to “edit” animal genomes to cause pain, distress and lasting harm – despite the government’s claims that strict regulations will be kept in place around genetically modified organisms.
In the same week, the government has approved £9.13million for three cutting-edge projects aimed at boosting agricultural productivity, sustainability and climate resilience.
The initiatives are:
This comes through the government’s £270million Farming Innovation Programme, part of a total £600million commitment over three years into boosting productivity, animal health and welfare, innovation, research and development within the farming sector. These advances, whilst potentially furthering the march of automation in agriculture and impacting the need for experienced workforce on farms, are no doubt a welcome step in the battle to ensure food security in the country in the face of climate change and a post-Brexit world.
With the changes in legislation now in force, farmers whose livelihoods are dependent on areas covered by the Act should seek sound legal advice on how it could impact them and their businesses, as well as how best to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.
The Thrings Agriculture team is one of the largest and most experienced in the UK, ranked in Band 1 by Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and in the Top Tier by Legal 500. The team has been chosen by the NFU to act for its members in more counties than any other firm.
Find out more about how we can support farmers, food producers and rural communities on our Information for Farmers page.