UK – The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is set to regulate precision-bred organisms (PBOs) intended for food and feed.

PBOs, encompassing plants and animals developed through modern biotechnology including gene editing, are being scrutinized for their potential impact on public health and the food industry.

The FSA’s science Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes asserts that PBOs do not inherently pose greater risks compared to traditionally bred organisms used in food and feed.

However, due to the continually evolving nature of this technology, the FSA deems it essential to introduce regulations that offer oversight and safeguards for public health.

The proposed regulatory framework aims to be adaptable and responsive, capable of accommodating future applications and scientific advancements.

Tiered authorization process

The FSA’s vision for the regulation of PBOs revolves around a two-tiered system. Tier 1 applications, involving minor changes similar to those from traditional breeding, are expected to be part of a notification process to be included on a public register.

However, there is ongoing debate regarding the extent of data required for this notification.

Tier 2 applications, where changes could significantly alter the product, necessitate a comprehensive risk assessment by the FSA.

Businesses are accountable for understanding their legal obligations, correctly categorizing their products, and providing necessary information to assess safety risks.

A key focus of the board’s decisions was the establishment of an enhanced public register of PBOs. This register not only informs consumers but also aids external scrutiny and allows monitoring of PBO evolution in the market.

Transparency is paramount, ensuring businesses can monitor the PBOs used in their products and respond to stakeholder concerns.

While the regulatory act is applicable to England, it is expected to influence other UK devolved nations. The FSA anticipates launching a formal public consultation in November, offering consumers, enforcement authorities, and industry stakeholders the opportunity to provide written comments on the draft proposals and legislation.

Discussions with stakeholders, including those from the organic sector, will continue to address specific concerns, fostering a collaborative approach to regulating PBOs in the UK’s food and feed industry.

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