the Royal Society of Edinburgh has warned that Scotland risks getting a reputation for being “anti-science” over its ban on GM crops (your report, 25 September).
In outline, the Precautionary Principle states that if an action has a suspected risk of causing harm, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.
This has the force of law in the EU in respect of many activities. GM food falls into this category.
Thus, before a ban on an action can be imposed, two conditions have to be met: first, there is no scientific consensus that the action is safe; and second, those proposing the action are unable to demonstrate that it is safe.
This is a legal, not a scientific, principle. Indeed, the notion of a scientific consensus is quite unscientific.
Leaving that aside, if the government at Holyrood is determining a policy without regard to the science, either that of the scientific community or of those who propose the action, it is acting irresponsibly and maybe illegally whatever its decision.
Political posturing, public opinion or what other countries do are totally irrelevant. Science must be consulted.