GM crops ban would undermine Scotland’s food industry, groups warn

By Alice Foster contact

- Last updated on GMT

Leading organisations have urged the Scottish government to rethink the ban
Leading organisations have urged the Scottish government to rethink the ban

Related tags: Gm crops, Agriculture, Gm

A ban on genetically modified (GM) crops in Scotland would seriously undermine the nation’s food and drink industry, warn nearly 30 leading organisations.

The scientific and farming groups have sent an open letter urging the Scottish government to rethink its ban on GM methods which would block the country off from cost-effective, sustainable crops.

The warning comes after rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead announced last week that the country planned to ban the cultivation of GM crops.

‘Consigned to continued use of the old’

The letter blasted the decision as “political” ​and stressed the important role that GM methods play in developing crops that are resistant to disease, pests and extreme climates.  

“By banning their use in Scotland, this country would be prevented from benefiting from future innovations in agriculture, fisheries and healthcare and consigned to continued use of the old,” ​the groups said.

“We are thus extremely concerned about the potential negative effect on science in Scotland.”

Fears from leading organisations

"This country would be prevented from benefiting from future innovations in agriculture, fisheries and healthcare and consigned to continued use of the old."

  • Open letter to Richard Lochhead, Scottish rural affairs secretary

Dolly the sheep

The signatories to the open letter included the National Farmers Union, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Roslin Institute, where Dolly the sheep was cloned.

In response, Richard Lochhead has agreed to meet representatives from the science and farming community to reassure them that the ban will not affect research.

Lochhead said the contained use of GM plants is permitted for scientific purposes in laboratories or sealed glasshouse facilities.

“However, just because GM crops can be cultivated in Scotland it doesn’t mean they should be,”​ he said.
 
“We respect the views of those in the scientific community who support the development of GM technology and the debate on the future of GM will no doubt continue.

“However, Scotland’s £14bn food sector has a reputation for a clean and green image across the world and allowing the cultivation of GM crops could damage that unique selling point.”

Scotland’s food and drink industry facts

  • Worth around £14bn a year 
  • Sales of Scottish brands in UK rose 35% since 2007
  • Scotland’s best performing domestic sector in recent years.

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