Scotland snubs call for GM crops
SNP snubs Benn's call to grow GM crops for food security
The Herald (Scotland), August 11 2009
Genetically-modified (GM) crops will not be grown in Scotland for the foreseeable future, despite calls by the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn for a radical rethink to how we produce and consume our food.
Mr Benn said that GM technology should be considered among potential solutions in the face of a looming global crisis. At the launch of a Westminster government report outlining the threats to our food security, the minister said although it would be up to farmers to decide what to grow, they must investigate new techniques in order to discover the facts about them.
Mr Benn said: "If GM can make a contribution then we have a choice as a society and as a world about whether to make use of that technology, and an increasing number of countries are growing GM products."
He added that the UK could make a valuable contribution to food security by increasing crop yields and opening up unused land for production.
In Scotland, no such crops have been grown since trials of GM oil seed rape ended in 2003. First Minister Alex Salmond opposes the technology, previously claiming that the benefits "would be small in comparision to the penalty".
A Scottish Government spokesman said it remained opposed to the cultivation of GM crops and was determined to protect "Scotland's clean and green image for food and drink production."
He added: "As such no GM crops are currently being grown in Scotland and none are likely to be in the foreseeable future."
Estimates suggests that by 2050 world food production will have to increase by 70% to feed a global population of nine billion.
The report warns that at the same time, supplies could be threatened by rising sea and temperature levels impacting on where crops can grow, water shortages and increasing incidences of animal disease.
Genetically engineered crops have long been suggested as a means of improving production and nutrition, but it remains a controversial technique, and little used by farmers outside of the Americas and China.
Mr Salmond's stance runs contrary to the views of Scotland's chief scientific advisor, Professor Anne Glover, who was appointed under the previous Labour administration.
Ms Glover is on record as saying she is favours a regulated approach to genetic modification. "They have a significant amount to offer, globally, in terms of how they could be used to better produce crops under difficult conditions and to reduce the amount of chemicals used in agriculture," she has said.