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Scottish Environment LINK - The voice of Scotland's environment movement




The Scottish Executive recognises that the public are uneasy about GM and that there is limited support for the commercial planting of GM crops in Scotland . However, there is no scientific evidence nor are there powers within the framework of European legislation to ban all GM crops.

In relation to the farm-scale evaluation crops, ACRE have advised that GM herbicide-tolerant beet and spring-sown rape should not be approved for planting on the basis of the management regimes tested under the trials, and that the consent for herbicide-tolerant maize should be amended to restrict the management conditions under which it can be grown. In the meantime no GM crops can be grown in Scotland . The Executive does not dismiss the longer-term potential of GM technology.

In order to provide assurance that farmers will be able to meet consumer demand for non-GM produce the Executive plans to establish statutory coexistence measures. Groups of farmers wishing to establish voluntary GM-free zones will be provided with guidance. (Scottish Executive, 2005) A consultation will consider the desirability of a separate threshold for organic crops and separation distances between GM and non-GM crops. (Scottish Parliament, 2004)

Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife officially lodged a GM Liability Bill proposal in the Scottish Parliament with support from four political parties and all independent MSPs. The Bill would make GM companies strictly liable for any economic damage as a result of contamination caused by GM crop trials and commercialisation, to prevent the consequences GM contamination had in North America where, since the widespread introduction of commercially grown GM crops, there have been numerous instances of non-GM farmers losing markets and livelihoods. Contamination incidents have cost the US economy at least $12bn between 1999 and 2001. (Scottish Green Party, 2005)

The draft EU Directive on Environmental Liability establishes liability for environmental damage to protected species and habitats resulting from a range of activities, including the release of GM organisms. It does not cover damage to private property or any economic loss, for example losses arising from GM contamination of non-GM crops. It is this issue which the Executive will seek to address in its consultation on co-existence. (Scottish Parliament, 2004)

The Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) strongly supports GM research in Scotland . According to the SRCI, the arguments for GM technology are compelling at a commercial level; the introduction of this technology will bring new options and added value to agriculture, providing major opportunities to make quantum leaps in crop performance. As potatoes and barley (the main crops for Scotland ) are not high priorities for the major multi-national corporations, it is essential that relevant programmes are in place (SCRI, 2005).

The Executive realises that the general public in Scotland is uneasy about GM crops and food. However, under European legislation a total ban of GM crops is not possible, and the longer-term potential of GM technology is not being dismissed.

The Executive works towards establishing statutory co-existence measures (also addressing the problem of losses through contamination of non-GM crops with GM) and will give guidance to farmers wishing to create voluntary GM-free zones.


  • GM Nation – the public debate; External Website
  • GM Free Scotland External Website
  • Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA) (2004). Annual report of the SASA GM inspectorate; External Website
  • Scottish Executive (2001): A Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture; External Website
  • Scottish Executive (2004a): The GM dialogue: Government response; External Website
  • Scottish Executive (2004b): Cautious approach to GM crops in Scotland . News release, 09/03/2004 ; External Website
  • Scottish Executive (2005): Genetically modified organisms; External Website
  • Scottish Green Party (2005): Greens move on GM threat to Scotland with "strict" liability Bill; External Website
  • Scottish Parliament (2004): Parliamentary Questions and Answers, Written Answers, Wednesday 21 April 2004 ; External Website
  • SCRI (2001): GM Strategy; External Website
  • SCRI (2005): Genetic Modification; External Website

Possible links to other BN