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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
Anger over new GM crop trials
GM crop trial
The Scottish Executive said the sites were safe
Trials of genetically modified crops are to go ahead at five farms in the north of Scotland.

The Scottish Executive has revealed that oilseed rape will be planted at three sites near Daviot in Aberdeenshire, one at Auldern near Nairn, and another at Smithton near Inverness.

A spokeman for the executive said the sites had been cleared as safe for the environment and local people had been informed.

But environmental campaigners have described the timing of the announcement as "insensitive".

Kevin Dunion
Kevin Dunion hit out at the timing
The farm-scale trials will include a field at New Craig Farm, near Daviot, where the first GM trial in Scotland was harvested last October.

Environmental activists staged a protest at the farm, where agrochemical company had Aventis planted a 25-acre crop of GM oilseed rape.

All five applications, which were received in February, have been vetted by the Food Standards Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Health and Safety Executive.

Local communities have also been informed of the trials, which will also be planted by Aventis.

They are part of a three-year evaluation by the executive to test the effects on other farm wildlife of herbicides associated with the GM crops.

These expert advisory agencies saw no grounds to advise that the releases be refused

Scottish Executive spokesman
An executive spokesman said: "The advisory bodies have carefully considered the science behind these plantings as well as representations from individuals and organisations opposed to field trials on particular farms and GM technology more generally.

"These expert advisory agencies saw no grounds to advise that the releases be refused.

"While ministers are alert to the concerns voiced by some people who believe that farm-scale evaluations present a threat to them, they have to act upon the advice of experts who, on the basis of their professional knowledge, have advised that this is not the case."

But Friends of the Earth Scotland chief executive Kevin Dunion hit out at the timing of the announcement.

"It seems the only countryside activity unaffected by the foot-and-mouth epidemic is the GM crop trials.

Trial schedule

"Despite the fact that there is public resistance to GM ingredients, the biotech industry is determined to push ahead with these trials and the executive is equally determined to support them," he said.

"It seems particularly insensitive that, at a time when movements on to farms are being restricted, exceptions are being made simply to ensure that the GM trial schedule stays on track."

Earlier this year a report by a Scottish Parliament committee recognised the need for trials of genetically modified crops.

MSPs on the environment committee said the trials have a legitimate role to play in the development of genetic modification technology.

However, the findings were not unanimous, with Green MSP Robin Harper and the Scottish National Party's Bruce Crawford and Fiona McLeod the exceptions.

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See also:

01 Mar 01 | UK
GM trials spark fresh row
23 Jan 01 | Scotland
Politicians back GM crop trials
03 Aug 00 | Scotland
New GM trial sites
16 Jul 00 | UK
GM protestors invade field
20 Jun 00 | Scotland
Flaw discovered in GM crop trial
09 Jun 00 | Scotland
'No harm' from GM crops
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