Holyrood seeks EU opt-out
Scottish government to ban farmers growing GM crops
Mr Lochhead has confirmed that the Scottish Government intends to take advantage of new EU rules allowing countries to opt out of growing authorised GM crops.
Ministers will request that Scotland is excluded from any European consents for the cultivation of GM crops, including the variety of genetically modified maize already approved and six other GM crops that are awaiting authorisation.
Mr Lochhead argued that the move would “protect Scotland’s clean, green status”.
However, the decision divided opinion among experts, politicians and the public. One said on Twitter: “Why the hell is Scotland banning GM crops?”
Some pointed out that the government was doing this while not imposing an outright ban on fracking. Others welcomed the decision.
Allan Bowie, the president of the National Farmers Union Scotland said: “It is very disappointing.
“We thought they had possibly started to understand the potential benefits [of GM]. The hope was to have open discussion and allow science to show the pros and cons for all of us to understand either the potential benefits or potential downsides.
“What we have now is that our competitors will get any benefits and we have to try and compete. It is rather naïve.”
Opposition politicians warned that the SNP’s position would drive those conducting groundbreaking research into GM products out of Scotland.
Mr Lochhead said: “Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment – and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status.
“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.
“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.
“That is why I strongly support the continued application of the precautionary principle in relation to GM crops and intend to take full advantage of the flexibility allowed under these new EU rules to ban GM crops from being grown in Scotland.
“The Scottish Government has long-standing concerns about GM crops – concerns that are shared by other European countries and consumers, and which should not be dismissed lightly.
“I firmly believe that GM policy in Scotland should be guided by what’s best for our economy and our own agricultural sector rather than the priorities of others. “
Mr Lochhead recently launched a national discussion on the future of Scottish agriculture and said he welcomed views from all sides of the GM debate.
Under EU rules, GM crops must be formally authorised before they can be cultivated in the EU geographical area.
The amendment to Directive 2001/18/EC came into force earlier this year and allows member states and devolved administrations to restrict or ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within their territory.
The amended directive applies to new cultivation dossiers and not GMOs that have already been or are currently being considered for approval. Transitional arrangements have been put in place to enable member states and devolved administrations to request that their territory is excluded from any consents in relation to applications that were received prior to 2 April.
The Rural Affairs Secretary kicked off a national discussion on the Future of Scottish Agriculture at the Turriff Show last week
Main photo: Greenpeace