Thanks to Anthony Jackson of the Munlochy GM Vigil for part 3 of the 'GM in the UK' REVIEW OF THE YEAR, which is about Scotland.
" 'The Highland Council was propelled into the GM debate by the crop trials on the Black Isle. But the more we have engaged with the issue and the more we have learned about GM, the more areas of concern we have uncovered.... We are inviting our neighbours in the Highlands and Islands to join with us in creating a GM-free zone that covers the whole of the Highlands and Islands' " - Richard Durham, the chairman of Highland's land and environment select committee
"the movement for GM-free zones in Scotland is steadily increasing with virtually the entire North of Scotland maintaining and extending this position during 2004."
"The Scottish Parliament came within a vote of blocking GM crop cultivation across the whole of the UK."
" 'I believe that almost all members of the Parliament are sceptical about GM crops. I am sceptical about GM crops.' " - Jack McConnell, Scotland's First Minister and head of the Scottish Executive
For parts 1 & 2 of 'GM in the UK', covering England and Wales, see:
Scotland 2004 - REVIEW OF THE YEAR
By Anthony Jackson, Munlochy GM Vigil
In Scotland the election in May 2003 produced the following number of seats in the Scottish Parliament: Labour 50 (-6), Liberal-Democrats 17 (+0), Scottish National Party 27 (-8), Conservative 18 (+0), Green Party 7 (+6), Scottish Socialist Party 6 (+5), Independents 4 (+3).
There were obvious benefits for the Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party but also for an independent caucus within the Scottish Parliament and an extremely knife edge position for the Scottish Executive.
This difficulty was shown during 2004 (see the Appendix below) when the Scottish Parliament debated the commercialisation of GM crops in the spring and came within a single vote of blocking GM crop cultivation across the whole of the UK.
By the autumn, the Scottish Executive was beginning to struggle with the issue of coexistence and liability during its own version of a pre-consultation consultation exercise.
Here they realised that sticking to the UK line of 0.9% thresholds for contamination would run into considerable political difficulties.
When the Scottish Executive civil servants were given the quote about liability from Jack McConnell, Scotland's First Minister and head of the Executive, they had to scurry off and check it out for themselves. Had he really said it? What was the context? The lifeline of their very jobs was at stake.
"...Scots are uneasy about GM crops and there is little support for their early commercialisation, so we will take action to protect the interests of Scottish consumers and to ensure consumer choice.
We believe that a statutory co-existence measure should exist to prevent cross-contamination. Compensation that is funded by the GM industry will be provided for any cross-contamination that occurs in Scotland. In areas where GM maize could be grown, we wish to establish GM-free zones...
I believe that almost all members of the Parliament are sceptical about GM crops. I am sceptical about GM crops.
That scepticism is why we insisted on putting in place the regime that I described, why we take the precautionary approach and why we ensured that the two crops that showed harm to the environment were rejected.
We will continue to take that sceptical stance not only in our debates and decisions in Scotland, but in our discussions at the UK level, in which we will push that case, and at the European level..."
(Jack McConnell, First Minister, in reply to questions in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, 11th March 2004 - in the Official Report, columns 6568-6589, http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/plenary/or-04/sor0311-02.htm )
The Lib-Lab pact in Scotland with all its deep fault-lines will continue to feel the pinch in the future and require campaigning efforts to keep the pressure up (backsliding to the previous cosy relationship with Blair is simply not an option).
Meanwhile, the movement for GM-free zones in Scotland is steadily increasing with virtually the entire North of Scotland maintaining and extending this position during 2004.
This is by no means the time to become complacent. There is still much to do in the UK and Europe. Executive branches of government and the industry networks have not given up. Corporate liability is crucial and the issue of imported animal feed has to be seriously addressed, especially with over half of the world’s soya now GM.
Yet even more importantly, as we can begin now to politically clean up on home ground, the need to support and open up the encouraging campaign successes in the USA is incumbent on all of us. The fight must be taken to the heartland.
Appendix: media pieces
GM protesters win three-year court battle - Highland News (Scotland), 14/10/2004
Four GM crop protesters convicted of aggravated trespass for their part in a protest at Munlochy on the Black Isle in August 2001 won their appeal at the High Court in Edinburgh
.. (and) successfully claimed
.. that Sheriff Alexander Pollock, who convicted them, had erred by rejecting a submission that the Crown had failed to identify in court the field in which the GM crop was planted, and in which the offences were alleged to have taken place. The field had been identified by an Ordnance Survey map grid reference, but no map had been produced during their trial. The defendants had also produced as grounds for appeal their claims that no trespass was involved; that the sowing of the GM crop was being carried out unlawfully, and that an organic farmer had the right to enjoy his possessions without undue interference under the European Human Rights Act - although these points were not proceeded with.
Western Isles ready to join as Highland GM-free zone grows - The Scotsman, 19th June 2004
WESTERN Isles councillors are set to join colleagues in Highland and Moray and declare their area a GM-free zone. Members of the islands' environmental services committee have recommended that the authority takes the action in line with Highland Council's decision in April to join a European network of regions free from genetically-modified produce - the first area in Scotland or England to do so. Angus Nicolson, the committee chairman, said: "We fully support the Highland Council stance and are happy to work with them in ensuring that Highlands and Islands become GM-free." Richard Durham, the chairman of Highland's land and environment select committee, who addressed the island council's committee in Stornoway, said: "Following on from the similar decision by Moray Council last month, we now have a significant GM-free region in the Highlands and Islands.....Cullen to Carloway, Dunnet to Duror - that's a huge area and a great achievement, but Highland Council will continue to canvass support for its GM-free stance from the other councils in the Highlands and Islands area."
. Mr Durham added: "The Highland Council was propelled into the GM debate by the crop trials on the Black Isle. But the more we have engaged with the issue and the more we have learned about GM, the more areas of concern we have uncovered.....We are inviting our neighbours in the Highlands and Islands to join with us in creating a GM-free zone that covers the whole of the Highlands and Islands. It is important that we work together to be seen as a region in the eyes of Brussels.... We should not be ashamed to push the environmental image of our farms and our produce. And let's not be afraid to ask for a price premium for it. I believe we can make our GM-free status a selling point." http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=696532004
Council backs blanket ban on GM produce - The Scotsman - Fri 16th Apr 2004
Highland councillors yesterday backed a move to make the region a GM-free zone, although a ban is not yet legally enforceable. The council agreed to join a European network of regions free from genetically-modified produce - the first area in Scotland and England to do so - to protect the Highlands' reputation for producing pure and healthy food.
Highland has been invited, with regions in Spain, Greece and Romania, to send a representative to meet the ten members which founded the network, at a conference in Austria on 28 April. The network was set up last November and includes Wales, the only UK region to join so far
Richard Durham, who will represent the council at the Austria conference, said: "If you look at the regions represented in the network, Aquitaine, Limousin, Tuscany, Wales and others, they are all big areas and the whole body of opinion is that they want their areas to be GM-free. They are saying we don?t want any GM organisms [GMOs] in the food that we produce. This is driven by people who live in these areas and they do not want genetically-modified food. Food in the Highlands and Islands has always been seen as healthy and pure and people in the Highlands also very much feel they do not want GMOs to come into our production." He said he also wanted to see the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Argyll and Bute and Moray joining the campaign to make the entire region GM-free.
Devinder Sharma in Scotland - Highland GM battle inspires Indians - The Scotsman, 27th Mar 2004 - http://business.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=352462004
One of the world's leading opponents of genetically modified crops has backed the campaign to keep Scotland GM-free. Devinder Sharma, an award-winning journalist, writer and researcher on food and trade policy, said campaigners in other parts of the world had been inspired by protesters in the Highlands who fought GM field trials in the Black Isle. He has also revealed that a forthcoming Bollywood film will feature a story of the cloning of humans which could help the fight against GM technology in his native India. Mr Sharma, who is at the forefront of the campaign against the introduction of GM crops to India, was in the Highlands yesterday, and visited the site at Munlochy where a vigil was set up three years ago to protest at the trialling of GM crops. This week he also held a briefing for MPs in the House of Commons. He said it was "very sad" that the Scottish Executive and the UK government had given qualified consent to the GM maize crop. "There is no benefit from GM maize to the UK, but it is an indication that the government gave in to industry pressure." However, he said: "Britain is the only country that has stood up to these issues. It is a model for the world. There was a time when it was said that the sun would never set on the British Empire ... but the empire crumbled. Today the sun does not set on the multi-national corporations, but I have a feeling that this empire will also crumble." Mr Sharma said that news of the Munlochy protest had reached campaigners in Delhi. "This was a unique model. Here were ordinary people standing up to fight this monster. This was remarkable," he said, "and that gave us inspiration that if people can come together for this here, it can happen elsewhere also." He added: "Scotland particularly needs to keep its pristine beauty for posterity. It would be foolish if Scotland gets into GM crops. You have wonderful landscapes and wonderful nature; why would you want to destroy it? It should be GM-free."
He dismissed claims that GM crops could help the hungry in the Third World: "Today we have 840 million people who go to bed hungry and the [biotech] industry says that number will rise to 1.5 billion by 2015, so therefore you need GM crops. One third of the world's hungry live in India, but they are not hungry because there is no food, but because they cannot afford food. In 2001-2, India had a recorded surplus of 65 million tons of wheat and rice." Instead of money being spent on subsidising food for poorer people, some of it had gone on research into GM crops, he said. "When you put that money to GM research you are taking it out of the mouths of people who are hungry, for research that is not wanted." Mr Sharma went on: "The Indian government has allocated $12 million (£6.6 million) for research on GM rice. If this money was diverted to feed the poor, they could have fed 12 million people for at least three years." Mr Sharma also revealed that he suggested to a leading director a storyline for a forthcoming Bollywood movie in which he will now appear. "It will be a love affair, but the story is that the boy discovers that the girl is a clone. I think it will be a very strong message."
18th March 2004 The Scottish Parliament came within a vote of blocking GM crop cultivation across the whole of the UK. The vote was 59 for the opposition Scottish National Party's motion (backed by the Greens, the Tories and the Scottish Socialist Party) calling for the approval of the GM maize Chardon LL to be blocked with only 60 against and 1 abstention. Crucially for this debate and the vote, an opposition member, rather than the Presiding Officer, was in the Chair. This debarred the opposition member from voting for the motion to block the GM crop. If the other Deputy Presiding Officer had been in the Chair, the motion would have been carried and the Executive defeated. The debate and vote have really underlined the strength of opposition to GM crops. If the Scottish Executive acquiesces in the necessary national seed listing for the UK, it will only be because by some odd chance the Presiding Officer was away and an opposition member in his place. The Executive has absolutely no mandate and also knows full well that the overwhelming majority of the Scottish people are completely opposed to the growing of GM crops.
The Munlochy GM Vigil thanks all those who wrote to Members of the Scottish Parliament to tell them of their concerns over GM crops. E-mails and letters flooded in and MSPs had never seen anything like it. But they may have to get used to it because this is just the start of our campaign to make sure that GM crops are never ever grown commercially in Scotland or anywhere else in the UK.
For the GM Debate in the Scottish Parliament http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/plenary/or-04/sor0318-02.htm#Col6769
and for the vote at Decision Time go to
(In the last debate of 29th May 2002 the decision was: for 62, Against 55, Abstentions 3 - http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S1/official_report/session-02/sor0529-02.htm#Col12315).