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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Finnie welcomes GM crops report
Police at a GM crop protest
Anti-GM crop protests have been held across the UK
A report which has dubbed GM crop trials in the UK as "seriously deficient" has been welcomed by Scotland's farming minister.

Government advisers said the trials are "not an adequate basis" for deciding whether genetically modified crops should be grown commercially.

They said the trials should continue, but they warned that the way they were introduced encouraged the belief that they were shrouded in secrecy.

Ross Finnie, the Scottish Executive's rural development minister, said the report, by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC), is "hugely helpful".

Ross Finnie
Ross Finnie welcomed the report

The AEBC advises the government on biotechnology issues affecting agriculture and the environment.

It has published a report, Crops on Trial, whose recommendations, it says, "aim to foster openness and transparency".

Mr Finnie said he shared many of the concerns raised in the report and supported its calls for more information and wider public debate about the trials, known as farm scale evaluations.

The minister also pledged that the executive would work with the Westminster Government to ensure the report's recommendations are enacted.

'Science-based objections'

Mr Finnie told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "The report is clear that the regulatory framework within which we are currently operating is not satisfactory and I've never pretended otherwise.

"I've always said there was a need to improve public consultation.

"But even the report says that the basis of any objection has to be science-based, so squaring that with your average public meeting is a very difficult process."

Mr Finnie said he believed any changes to the Environmental Protection Act as it relates to GM should be enacted through Scottish regulation.

But he said the secrecy surrounding GM crops did not just relate to the current trials, but dated back several years.

'Wider debate'

"These trials themselves were far too far down the road before the public were properly engaged," he said.

"Five or six or seven years ago, when the GM seeds being used in these trials was being developed, it was very clear that there ought to have been a very much wider debate about what was being developed.

"It's not the trials that are the real cause of the problem, the real cause of the problem was the development of the GM seed and nobody being alerted to what was actually happening"

He added: "It's not just a question of getting to the end of these trials.

"The commission are properly saying there are a whole lot of wider considerations and that's something that we in the Scottish Executive and the UK Government are going to have to respond very positively to."

Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie
"I think is report is hugely helpful"
BBC Scotland's Iain MacDonald reports
"Even the Scottish Executive, the target of much criticism, seems to concede the flaws in the system"
See also:

09 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
GM crop trials 'flawed'
07 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
High Court bid by biotech firm
30 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
GM tomatoes 'offer health boost'
24 Jul 01 | UK
New GM crop trials unveiled
22 May 01 | Sci/Tech
GM crop trial abandoned
01 Mar 01 | UK
GM trials spark fresh row
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