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Genetic modification of plants and fungi

Kew’s research concentrates on discovering, conserving and managing the vast array of natural genetic diversity that exists in the plant and fungal worlds. However, while not actively engaged in genetic modification (GM)*, Kew recognises that GM technologies have the potential to make a positive contribution to human wellbeing, for example through contributing to increasing the production of more nutritious food with fewer environmentally damaging inputs.

Kew engages with partners around the world who are involved in the genetic modification of plants for the good of humanity and the environment. At the same time, Kew also recognises that genetic modification is not a 'magic bullet'; it is just another tool that can be used, for example, in the effort to achieve sustainable food security in face of global change.

While most of the human and environmental health concerns associated with GM have to date proven to be unfounded, Kew recognises that no new technology is entirely without risk. Thus in any potential dealings with GM, Kew adopts a precautionary approach based on the best available scientific evidence and knowledge, and adheres to all UK and, where appropriate, international safety legislation and regulations.

Kew recognises and respects the sovereignty of individual nations to determine if, when and how genetically modified organisms will be used in their territory. In all its international activities involving the development, evaluation, transfer and use of plant and fungal material, Kew adheres to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

* GMOs are defined in EU legislation as 'organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or recombination'. Genetic techniques involved could include:

  • transferring genes from one organism to another
  • moving, deleting, modifying, or multiplying genes within a living organism
  • modifying existing genes or constructing new ones, and incorporating them into a new organism