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Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Ministers approve GM crop trials
Oil seed rape field
The crop trials will take place held this autumn
Four Scottish farms have been given the green light to take part in the next round of genetically modified crop trials.

The Scottish Executive announced on Tuesday that it had approved the planting of crops at three farms in Aberdeenshire and one in the Black Isle.

Genetically modified oilseed rape will be planted in traditional growing areas in the autumn.

GM crop protester
Activists have campaigned against crop trials
The executive said approval was granted following advice from a range of bodies, including Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

And it said the trials were strictly controlled and closely monitored.

"Should any potentially harmful effects be identified, the trial will be stopped and the crop destroyed," said a spokesperson.

The farms will feature in the fourth round of Scottish projects in a three-year programme.

Two of the proposed sites are at Daviot, in Aberdeenshire, and one is at Rothienorman.

Environmental activists

The other is at Munlochy in the Black Isle, which was the scene of earlier protests against GM trials.

Ministers have said that no GM crops will be commercially grown in Scotland if the results of the programme suggest that they could pose a threat to biodiversity.

However, trials in the UK have been subject to opposition from environmental activists with some crops damaged or destroyed.

And last month a survey by Highland Council reported that a majority of people were opposed to GM trials.

I'm quite satisfied that we're going within the law and within the EU legislation as it's currently drafted

Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie
The study of 1,100 households found more than 65% of people surveyed were dissatisfied with the public consultation process, 55% were opposed to commercial growing and more than 51% were against any crop trials.

Meanwhile, environmental campaigners are hoping to win a judicial review of the way ministers handled trials at a farm on the Black Isle.

Highlands and Islands GM Concern is seeking advice on the range of legal options available.

The move has been welcomed by Green MSP Robin Harper, who said it was "vitally important" that the fight against GM testing continued.

"The Scottish Office has continually said there must be clear threat and we feel that there is," he said.

'Seriously toxic'

"We have already established there is a pollen drift and that chemicals being used are not even licensed for use over winter, it's pretty seriously toxic."

However, Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie said: "If it goes to court, we'll have to meet that in court and I'm certainly not aware of us not meeting our duties or responsibilities.

"This is a very complex piece of legislation which does not, and I've admitted that, deal in its present form with public consultation, although the most recent directive does give scope and we're just about to go out in consultation to change the law in that regard.

"But as far as the current law is concerned, I'm quite satisfied that we're going within the law and within the EU legislation as it's currently drafted."

See also:

24 Jul 01 | Scotland
New Scots GM trials planned
28 Mar 01 | Scotland
Anger over new GM crop trials
01 Mar 01 | UK
GM trials spark fresh row
23 Jan 01 | Scotland
Politicians back GM crop trials
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