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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 15:52 GMT
GM trials up for question
Oil seed rape
Protesters are stepping up their campaign
The Scottish Parliament is to reconsider the issue of GM crop trials after hearing a petition from a campaign group.

The opponents, from Munlochy, in the Black Isle, urged the parliament's petitions committee to support a ban on trials of genetically modified crops in Scotland.

MSPs are now asking their colleagues on the environment committee to look urgently at the issue once again.

The petitions committee accepted the argument that Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie does have the power to halt a trial at Munlochy.


The Scottish Parliament has the chance to make up for the democratic deficit and listen to the overwhelming voices of opposition to GM trials and GM crops

Anthony Jackson
Petition organiser
This is despite Mr Finnie's earlier assertion that he was bound by a European directive to allow the test to continue.

Protesters have been mounting a vigil for six months at the site.

The delegation in Edinburgh argued that the risks posed by the GM trials were unacceptable.

Thousands of people, including local MPs and all non-ministerial MSPs from the Highlands, have backed the call for a halt to GM experiments on farms.

Twelve trials have taken place in Scotland and the final planting of GM seeds is scheduled to take place next year.

Scottish trials

Anthony Jackson, one of the organisers of the petition, said it was time for MSPs to act.

"The Scottish Parliament has the chance to make up for the democratic deficit and listen to the overwhelming voices of opposition to GM trials and GM crops," he said.

"Scotland has an opportunity to declare itself GM free, avoiding future environmental and health problems and taking advantage of the huge international market for non-GM foods."

Ross Finnie
Ross Finnie said trials would continue
The petition handed over to the committee was signed by more than 4,000 people, including Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

Accountancy lecturer Linda Martin, 46, from Munlochy, told the committee that the crop trials were opposed by 92% of village residents.

She said: "When the experimental crop flowers the villagers have no option but to inhale the pollen as it will come into the village, making them part of the experiment.

"There is also major public opposition to the farm scale evaluation (FSE) programme in both Aberdeenshire and Fife, where public anger is vocal and widespread."

Petitions committee convenor John McAllion said the petition would be passed on to the transport and environment committee with a recommendation that it consider the issue "urgently" because the Munlochy crops were likely to flower soon.

The parliament has already recommended better consultation over GM trials.


GM trials will allow us to take important decisions on whether GM crops have a commercial future informed by facts, not speculation

Scottish Executive spokesman
But Mr Finnie insisted the trials would continue as there is no evidence of damage to human health or the environment.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said the parliament had carried out an investigation into GM crops two years ago following a similar petition and found that ministers had no power to stop the trials.

"The report agreed that the farm scale evaluations have a role to play in the rightly cautious approach of the Scottish Executive towards GM development," he said.

"GM trials will allow us to take important decisions on whether GM crops have a commercial future informed by facts, not speculation."

Concerns surrounding GM technology centre on the impact on the environment, wildlife and human health.

See also:

10 Sep 01 | Scotland
Finnie welcomes GM crops report
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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