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If the UK government gets away with its new legislation, it would allow plants created using foreign genes to be classified as ‘natural’ 

The government is twisting science and mangling the concept of ’natural’ to force gene-edited foods, unlabelled, onto our plates.

Environment secretary George Eustice promotes gene editing as a precision science – one that is all benefits, no downside. Much of the media has fallen for this reassuring but thoroughly fallacious sales pitch, when in fact genome editing is just another form of risky genetic engineering.

Gene editing isn’t just a single snip or tweak. As well as any intended genetic modification, it invariably involves large numbers of unintended alterations to the plant or animal in question. It can also entail multiple cuts into an organism’s DNA and the insertion of foreign genes.

For instance, Professor Cathie Martin, who led the development of the gene-edited tomato that could be the first crop of its kind to go on sale in the UK, told The National that the process did insert ­foreign genes that were removed ­before the final plant was put to market.

And be in no doubt that, as the European Court of Justice has ruled, gene editing does indeed create genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Yet if the UK government gets away with its new legislation, it would allow plants created using foreign genes to be classified as ‘natural’ and they will be exempt from regulation and labelling.

This should alarm us. A recent experiment in the US serves as a timely warning of how this volatile technology produces unpredictable, negative and irreversible results.

Researchers at Georgia State University just reported on how their gene editing experiment to reduce aggression in hamsters misfired when their ‘precision’ alterations instead bred ultra-vicious rodents. In other words, the scientists anticipated a favourable outcome, but got the opposite result.

In the realm of food, the most obvious risks of gene editing are the production of toxins and allergens that could wreak havoc with human and animal health. Who has an appetite for that?

Last year’s government consultation found 88% of citizens don’t want gene-edited foods treated differently to other genetically modified products.

Is it any wonder that, very sensibly, no UK supermarket is willing to say it will stock gene-edited food?