16th June 2022
North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan raised fears about animal welfare as she suggested legislation about genetic editing is a distraction from the current crisis facing British farmers.
Helen said that loosening rules around precision breeding will not benefit farmers in Shropshire who are considering whether to shut down their businesses due to the rising costs of fuel and feed and the Government’s botched changes to support payments.
Helen Morgan MP told the House of Commons: “The farmers we meet, such as those I met on Friday, tell us that the reduction in the farm payment this year, when the replacement scheme is not yet in place, is causing genuine hardship.
“They would like to get on board with the new schemes, but the up-front costs make it unlikely that they will bother. A deregulated environment for precision breeding will not help them, because they might not be in business to benefit from it.”
Helen called on the Government to make sure that improving animal welfare in the UK is central to any new law.
She said: “While editing the genes of a pig, for example, to make it resistant to the worst types of disease is welcome, that must not be a shortcut to allowing pigs to be reared in less hygienic and more crowded conditions. Not only must their welfare continue to be protected; it must be continuously improved.”
The Lib Dem MP praised British farmers for leading the way with animal welfare and environmental standards and asked the Government to recognise this instead of focusing on rhetoric about ditching regulations.
She added: “We are proud of the progress our farmers have made and the high standards they have achieved. We do not want all that effort to be wasted now through a back-door watering down of standards.”
Helen clarified that she supports the bill generally and is in favour of using science for precision breeding but said the priority for now must be giving farmers the support they need in the short term to make sure their businesses survive.