New legislation is set to be put in place in England to reduce the rules around research into gene editing.

The new rules will mean scientists across England will face fewer regulations around plant-based research and development using genetic technologies such as gene editing.

The UK government says this has been made possible from leaving the EU.

The rules will apply to plants where gene editing is used to create new varieties similar to those which could have been produced through traditional breeding processes, but much more slowly.

Gene editing

Gene editing differs from genetic modification, as it allows beneficial traits in plants or animals to be produced without DNA from other species.

Instead, the technology enables breeders and scientists to follow processes that mimic natural breeding.


All scientists undertaking research with genetic technologies will have to continue to notify Defra of any research trials.

However, gene edited plants will still be classified as genetically modified organisms and commercial cultivation of these plants, and any food products derived from them, will still need to be authorised in accordance with existing rules.

Speaking on the announcement, Director of The John Innes Centre Professor Dale Sanders FRS said: “Defra’s announcement today is a step in the right direction that will allow researchers to run more field trials of gene-edited crops.”

Some of the examples of gene editing research which is ongoing includes sugar beet resistant to virus yellows, gene-edited wheat, grown without asparagine, climate-resilient wheat, mildew-resistant tomatoes and disease-resistant bananas.