Scotland has announced that it will ban the growing of GM crops. Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has said that the government wants to protect the country’s “clean and green” brand, and that they will opt out of any E.U. consent that will allow the cultivation of various approved GM plants. The move has been criticized by those in the agricultural business, as well as those researching biotechnology, claiming that this is a “sad day for science.”
The request to opt out of the GM crop consent would cover seven plants that the E.U. is likely to give the go-ahead to allow them to be grown commercially across the continent. This comes despite the fact that all GM crops commercially available have been proven to be safe for human consumption and to have no harmful effect on health, and in spite of the key role Scottish scientists have played in the development of GM crops. However, the government has not said whether this new ban will also affect those plants grown for scientific or experimental research.
“There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14 billion food and drink sector,” said Lochhead in an official statement.
“Scottish food and drink is valued at home and abroad for its natural, high quality which often attracts a premium price, and I have heard directly from food and drink producers in other countries that are ditching GM because of a consumer backlash.”
The announcement has been supported by Scottish Green politician Alison Johnstone, who has said that the need to protect Scotland’s reputation for high-quality produce is key. But she has also called for further measures that would mean supermarkets would have to label meat, dairy and egg products that have come from animals fed on GM feed.
The National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS), however, is dismayed by the proposed ban. “My personal view is this is simply going to make us less competitive,” Andrew McCornick, vice-president of the NFUS, told the Scotsman. “There is going to be one side of the Border in England where they may adopt biotechnology, but just across the river Tweed farmers are not going to be allowed to. How are these farmers going to be capable of competing in the same market?”
There has also been criticism launched from the scientific community, who are concerned that the move will hamper the development of new GM crops and biotechnology within the country. Huw Jones, a professor of molecular genetics at Rothamsted Research has said that “this is a sad day for science, and a sad day for Scotland. GM crops approved by the E.U. are safe for humans, animals and the environment and it’s a shame the Scottish Parliament think cultivation would harm their food and drink sector.”
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