NOTE: The UK's Farmers Weekly have done podcasts and interviews on GM in Scotland, including a great interview with Mike Russell, Scotland's Environment Minister.

Podcasts on GM in Scotland interviews with Mike Russell, (anti) and Jim McLaren, NFU Scotland (pro).

And farmers' views for and against, including McLaren's are given below.

Incidentally, despite the fact that McLaren demands that with GM "we need to get real on what we're actually doing at the minute", he claims that Scottish "retailers' shelves are full of GM tomato paste", which is very odd given that the last can of GM tomato paste was sold in the UK in June 1999 after which it was withdrawn because of the lack of consumer acceptance.

This level of inaccuracy seems to be par for the course with Jim McLaren who has also claimed leading environmentalists recognise the value of GM crops. However, the only "leading environmentalist" he's actually named is Jonathon Porritt who has very little to say that is of comfort to McLaren.

1. FOR: Should Scotland go GM-free?
23/05/2008 12:50:00

The case for a GM-free Scotland by organic farmer Carey Coombs

GM-free status for Scotland gives the country the opportunity to invest in modern agricultural food systems which deliver environmental and economic efficiency, according to a leading organic farmer from Lanarkshire.

Carey Coombs, who produces organic beef and lamb on his 900-acre hill farm near Biggar, argues that far from being a saviour, GM cultivation will only exacerbate food security issues.

"Global food problems are likely to be severe in future, but the solutions must be driven by the needs of the people who are to consume, whereas GM research at the moment is driven by the need to commercialise and profit," he states.

Mr Coombs, who has been an organic farmer for 10 years and grows cereals in a bid to make his farm self-sufficient, says he is sympathetic to the economic pressures of those buying in animal feed from the global market, but says that believing a slackening of the GM approvals procedure would help is a red herring.

"If we are serious about feeding ourselves into the future, then we must take a very hard look at livestock farmers' dependence on imported protein crops. With a rising global population, these importations make absolutely no economic, ethical or environmental sense. It is time we undertook real agri-ecosystem design and management. It might be a lot more successful than GM."

Author: Nancy Nicolson

2. AGAINST a GM-free Scotland
by farmer Shirley Harrison
Should Scotland go GM-free?
23/05/2008 12:51:00

The Scottish government's GM-free zone policy is creating division, frustration and resentment in a country which has a global reputation for being at the forefront of agricultural advances and plant breeding.

And at a time when livestock farmers are struggling with spiralling feed costs, and food security has a higher profile than at any time since the last war, the pros and antis appear to be lining up for a second-round battle which the biotechnology companies are determined to fight all the way.

The one-year-old SNP administration and its conviction that Scotland should be prepared to take an independent stance on the controversial technology have prompted the NFU Scotland president, Jim McLaren, to call for urgent talks with environment minister Mike Russell in a bid to persuade him to change one of his government’s main policies.

But while Mr Russell told Farmers Weekly he was "always willing to have a debate", he went on to condemn as "unreliable" the technology already used by 12 million farmers in 22 countries.

"There is a lack of reliable science, there is a potential risk to the environment, and the subsequent damage to the reputation of Scottish produce, should there be a problem," the minister said. "And even if there was greater faith in the science, the reputational damage would pose such a threat there would be a positive disadvantage.

"A situation exists where there is a level of GM in food which we, alas, in European terms have to accept. But there is a big difference between that and saying we have to give up the fight."

According to Jim McLaren, however, there is a fatal flaw in the Scottish government's argument.

"It would be a case of having to reverse from where we already are, because retailers' shelves are full of GM tomato paste or imported meat products, and many of the livestock produced in Scotland are fed on GM crops, so we need to get real on what we're actually doing at the minute,” he stated.

The industry will not go against the informed opinion of consumers, but he believes restrictions have already cost the country a global advantage.

"When we do come to adopt the technology in the future, it's almost certain that it will be work that has been developed in other countries, and I'd have far more faith in technology developed in Scotland and the UK than any developed in either North or South America,” he said.

Author: Nancy Nicolson