NFU Scotland wants '˜rational' debate on future of GM food

As the Scottish Government requested confirmation that it would be able to continue its ban on growing genetically modified (GM) crops in the country following Brexit, NFU Scotland yesterday called for any decision to be based on a rational assessment of the underlying science.

Fergus Ewing sought assurance over the GM ban. Picture: Contributed
Fergus Ewing sought assurance over the GM ban. Picture: Contributed

In a letter to UK environment secretary Michael Gove, Scotland’s rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing, requested an assurance that the Scotland’s opt-out on the cultivation of GM crops – which was currently underwritten by EU legislation – would continue following Brexit.

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Ewing said that EU law had important provisions which allowed Scotland to opt out of cultivating GM crops, a long-held SNP policy, and added that this approach was “extremely important for Scotland”.

“The commercial success of our food and drink industry is built on Scotland’s reputation for quality, provenance and the natural larder which we are fortunate to have,” he said.

The letter said that, while Gove had made the right noises on environmental protection and assurances that food and drink standards would not be lowered after the UK left the EU, nothing explicit had been announced on the GM front, while there had been a firm emphasis placed on scientific evidence leading policy.

“Science is indeed an important driver of innovation in delivering agricultural and environmental outcomes, and the Scottish Government is committed to scientific research in Scotland,” said Ewing.

“However, there are many types of evidence, of which science is one, that are important to consider in any policy development, for example socio-economic evidence.”

However, Andrew Bauer, NFU Scotland’s deputy director of policy, stressed the importance of a rational debate.

“Farming is a modern industry which uses science and technology in a regulated and safe manner,” he said.

“We believe that any decision made should be based on sound science, and whilst we recognise that there is a diversity of opinion on this subject the key to making the right decision is to rationally asses the pros and cons of the underpinning science.”