Scotland to Ban Growing Genetically Modified (GM) Crops

GM crops are widely grown in the Americas and Asia, but the crops have divided opinion in Europe. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)
GM crops are widely grown in the Americas and Asia, but the crops have divided opinion in Europe. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

In what no doubt will turn controversial, Scotland’s government has announced it intends to ban the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops on any of its territory to protect its “clean and green brand,” and because there is little evidence that Scottish consumers want GM products.

GM crops are widely grown in the Americas and Asia, but the crops have divided opinion in Europe.

There are some green groups that are saying they are worried about environmental impacts. Even though producers say research shows the crops are safe, the green groups are also questioning whether they are even healthy for humans.

Panel discussion: GMOs, pros and cons:

In a statement from the Scottish government, Richard Lochhead, Rural Affairs Secretary, has confirmed that the Scottish government intends to take advantage of new EU rules allowing countries to opt out of growing EU-authorized GM crops.

Jenny Easley with GMO-free Idaho: Pros and cons of GMO food:

The Scottish government will shortly submit a 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 authorization, it added.

According to The Guardian, the Scottish government announcement did not say whether this new legal power would extend to a ban on scientific and experimental research, but a spokeswoman confirmed that laboratory research on GMOs would continue.

“These changes would not affect research as it is currently carried out in Scotland, where the contained use of GM plants is permitted for scientific purposes, for example in laboratories or sealed glasshouse facilities,’’ the spokeswoman said.

GMOs: Should they be on our shelves?

The Cabinet Secretary 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. I recently kicked off a national discussion on the future of Scottish agriculture, and welcome views from all sides of the GM debate.”

According to the BBC, The announcement was welcomed by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who agreed that the cultivation of GM crops would harm the country’s environment and reputation for high quality food and drink. But she called on ministers to go further by challenging big retailers to improve their labeling to show whether meat, eggs, and dairy products come from animals fed on GM feed.

Should Scotland be GM-free?

Scott Walker, CEO of farming union NFU Scotland, has been reported to have said: “Other countries are embracing biotechnology where appropriate and we should be open to doing the same here in Scotland. These crops could have a role in shaping sustainable agriculture at some point and at the same time protecting the environment, which we all cherish in Scotland.”

Huw Jones, a professor of molecular genetics at agricultural science group Rothamsted Research, said that the announcement was a “sad day for science and a sad day for Scotland. GM crops that have been approved by the EU were safe for humans, animals, and the environment.”

What do you think? Is this a good move or is it simply people misunderstanding GMO technology?

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