Daily Management Review

Scotland to Ban GM Farming While London Gets Ready to Allow It


Scotland to Ban GM Farming While London Gets Ready to Allow It
While Britain signals that it would allow genetically modified crops to be harvested in the country, Scotland on the other hand is preparing to formally ban genetically modified crops from being grown anywhere in the country.

This has created a sharp policy divide with the Conservative government in London.

The decision, if and when implemented in Scotland, would help reinforce a long-standing moratorium on planting GM crops in Scotland. This is also being viewed as a political strategy for the Scottish National party, who with this decision would be able to, to further distance itself from the UK government.

The British government has already signaled that they intend to allow the GM farming of crops such as maize and oilseed rape in England. Despite significant resistance from consumers and environmental groups, the government in London enjoys the support of the agribusiness, scientific bodies and the National Farmers Union on this issue.  

It is reported that the Scotland government would utilize a new EU regulations that aim to empower government to opt not to be part of a regime that expects greater use of GM farming around Europe.

A source in the Scottish government said that the laboratory research on GMOs would continue even as officially, the government did not make it clear whether the blanket ban would be applicable for a ban on scientific and experimental research as well.

However within the Scottish scientific community, there is a large section that is advocates of GM farming. Several scientists include the ones at the James Hutton Institute and the Rowett Institute of
Nutrition and Health, have taken a leading role in GM research in Europe.

Dame Anne Glover, a Scottish scientist and the former chief scientific officer of the Scottish Government and a former chief scientists of the European commission is also a known advocate of GM farming and GM crops.

“These changes (ban on GM farming) 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,’’ said a Scotland government source.

The logic behind such a decision by the Scottish government is the potential threat to other crops and wildlife from GMOs and the government believes that the threats outweigh the likely benefits of the technology, said Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s environment secretary. This logic has been used to get ready for the blanket ban on commercial farming of GM crops.

Citing economic reasons, Lochhead justified: “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 £14bn food and drink sector”.

“If you are a whisky producer or breeding high-quality beef, you ought to be worried if you don’t want GM but it is going to come to a field near you and you were worried that there was going to be some contamination. It is certainly in Scotland’s interests to keep GM out of Scotland”, said renowned environment campaigner Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland.