Combine harvesters pump freshly harvested wheat grain into a truck during a previous harvest in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Today the country
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Gene-edited crop production is to be sped up in the UK to help tackle the global food crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the minister in charge revealed today.

Russian blockades are preventing the export of key goods such as oils, wheat and corn from the ‘breadbasket of Europe’, leading to rising food prices and shortages globally including a major threat of famine in Africa.

The Government will this week introduce a Bill which will allow farms to grow more crops by planting variants that have been edited to be more resistant to disease or need less water or fertiliser.

‘Precision technologies allow us to speed up the breeding of crops that have a natural resistance to diseases and climate change, better use of soil nutrients so we can have higher yields with fewer pesticides and fertilisers,’ George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told The Telegraph.

He added: ‘Water scarcity is a coming challenge with climate change, and this technology could therefore be imperative to global food security.’

Gene-editing aims to produce crops which are more disease-resistant, or to boost the resilience and yields of livestock. 

It differs from genetically modified (GM) produce – dubbed Frankenfood – in that it alters the existing DNA of a plant or animal, rather than adding DNA from different species.

Combine harvesters pump freshly harvested wheat grain into a truck during a previous harvest in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Today the country's farming industry is in turmoil after Russia's invasion

Combine harvesters pump freshly harvested wheat grain into a truck during a previous harvest in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Today the country's farming industry is in turmoil after Russia's invasion

Combine harvesters pump freshly harvested wheat grain into a truck during a previous harvest in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Today the country’s farming industry is in turmoil after Russia’s invasion

George Eustice said changes to the law outlined in the recent Queen¿s Speech should pass through Parliament in the next few months to counter caused by Putin's invasion

George Eustice said changes to the law outlined in the recent Queen¿s Speech should pass through Parliament in the next few months to counter caused by Putin's invasion

George Eustice said changes to the law outlined in the recent Queen¿s Speech should pass through Parliament in the next few months to counter caused by Putin's invasion

George Eustice said changes to the law outlined in the recent Queen¿s Speech should pass through Parliament in the next few months to counter caused by Putin's invasion

George Eustice said changes to the law outlined in the recent Queen’s Speech should pass through Parliament in the next few months to counter caused by Putin’s invasion

It comes amid concern over the UK’s food self-sufficiency and the plans will aim to help guarantee British food supplies. And last week the Bank of England’s governor warned households yesterday they face an ‘apocalyptic’ food price rises – but admitted he feels ‘helpless’ over soaring inflation.

WHAT ARE GENE-EDITED CROPS AND HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT TO GM PLANTS?

Gene editing promises to produce ‘super-crops’ by altering or cutting out genes that naturally occur in plants.

Unlike genetically modified (GM) plants, gene-edited (GE) crops contain no ‘foreign’ DNA from other species. 

GE crops are produced using CRISPR, a new tool for making precise edits in DNA.

Scientists use a specialised protein to make tiny changes to the plant’s DNA that could occur naturally or through selective breeding.

GM crops have had foreign genes added to their DNA – a process that often cannot happen naturally. 

The US, Brazil, Canada and Argentina have indicated they will exempt GE crops that do not contain foreign DNA from GM regulations.

Andrew Bailey urged Boris Johnson to do all he can to help Ukraine get as much of its wheat out of the country as possible.

And Mr Bailey, who earns £575,000 a year, said workers, particularly high earners, should ‘think and reflect’ before asking for wage increases in order to avoid fuelling wider inflation further.

Food security is expected to be a key feature of the national food strategy White Paper to be published next month.

The plans were due to be unveiled earlier this year but were delayed by the invasion and the paper will now place increased emphasis on food security.

Ministers are also understood to be considering introducing targets for the domestic production of food.

Food produced by controversial gene-editing techniques could be in supermarkets as early as next year, the Environment Secretary said last week.

George Eustice said changes to the law outlined in the recent Queen’s Speech should pass through Parliament in the next few months.

And he insisted gene-edited food would benefit both consumers and producers – amid warnings from scientists about the unknown health and environmental effects of the technology.

Mr Eustice said he expected the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill to get Royal Assent this year. He added: ‘We will then have a regime that enables us to issue a marketing authorisation for any gene-edited seeds.

‘There’ll probably be some of these crops that are already available and bred in other parts of the world. So it’s possible that we could have some of these crops… ready to be deployed during the course of next year.’

Soybeans producing longer-lasting oil and tomatoes with higher levels of blood pressure-lowering compounds are examples of what could become available.

Mr Eustice told the i newspaper it would be three to five years before ‘significant numbers’ of crops developed in the UK appeared on our shelves. He said gene editing would be introduced in crops before a decision is made on livestock.

Opponents say more research and checks are needed. Liz O’Neill of GM Freeze said: ‘Gene editing is GM with better PR – there is much that can go wrong.’

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