Scottish farming leaders have criticised a Holyrood decision not to allow the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said Scotland intended to take advantage of new EU rules allowing countries to opt out of growing EU-authorised GM crops.
Mr Lochhead tweeted the announcement yesterday.
The Scottish Government is to submit a request that Scotland is excluded from any European consents for the cultivation of GM crops, including the variety of GM maize already approved and six other GM crops that are awaiting authorisation.
NFU Scotland said it was disappointed by the decision, while leaders in agricultural research said the move could put Scottish producers at a disadvantage.
NFUS chief executive Scott Walker said: “Other countries are embracing biotechnology where appropriate and we should be open to doing the same here in Scotland.
“Decisions should be taken on the individual merits of each variety, based on science and determined by whether the variety will deliver overall benefit.
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.
“What we want is an open debate that then allows decisions to be taken from an informed position reflecting current technology.”
Huw Jones, professor of molecular genetics at Hertfordshire based Rothamsted Reseach said it was a ‘sad day’ for Scotland.
“GM crops approved by the EU 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,” added Prof Jones.
“If approved, this decision serves to remove the freedom of Scottish farmers and narrows their choice of crop varieties to cultivate in the future.”
Mr Lochhead said banning GM would protect and enhance the country’s ‘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.”
Under EU rules, GM crops must be formally authorised before they can be cultivated in the EU geographical area.
The amendment to the rules, which came into force earlier this year, allows Member States and devolved administrations to restrict or ban the cultivation of GM organisms within their territory.
A trial to test camelina plants genetically modified to produce omega-3 gish oils is ongoing at Rothamsted Research.
Can’t believe a developed nation in the 21st Century would actually ban GM crops. Ignore science & cower to fiction of fear groups #Scotland— James Wong (@Botanygeek)