Scottish government backs Prince Charles over GM
NOTE: You can express support and appreciation for the Scottish Government's stand at the url with this article.
On principle, we should back prince
Michael Russell on GM crops
The Sunday Herald, August 24 2008
[Michael Russell MSP is Minister for Environment, Scotland]
IN RECENT weeks, the Prince of Wales has reignited the GM debate. Some people, such as UK environment minister Phil Woolas, were quick to criticise, but many others have indicated agreement. The Scottish government also supports his argument. GM is not the panacea its advocates claim it is, and the dangers of GM crop cultivation continue to outweigh the advantages.
The criticism from Woolas was particularly strange. We are both environment ministers and should approach such matters with the precautionary principle firmly in mind. The principle that "if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action."
This makes sense. That is why it is enshrined in European law and is commanding global respect. Indeed, the Indian Supreme Court is considering a petition which would ban GM experimental crop cultivation. It is merely common sense to be careful; once the GM genie is out of the bottle it would be impossible to get it back in.
But for Scotland there is a second principle - one that I call the preventative principle. Scotland is lucky - we enjoy a clean, pure and sustainable natural environment. This not only attracts many tourists, but also underpins our ability to sell our whisky, beef, lamb, salmon and so many natural products. It makes no sense to play fast and loose with such an asset. Fortunately most people in Scotland agree, as every poll on the issue has shown.
But, contrary to the pro-GM spin, we are not alone - not even in these islands. The government of Northern Ireland agrees, as do many others across Europe. They share our concerns and, like us, are prepared to stand up and be counted. Earlier this year I discussed the issue with European environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas, who has urged sensible caution on the issue.
There is no evidence GM will feed the world. Conventional plant breeding techniques - at which Scots scientists excel - have a far better track record in improving yield and protection from disease. Scotland does not need GM crops, Scotland does not want GM crops and Scotland should not have GM crops. Scottish agriculture and exporters are better off without them. And so is the environment right across our planet.