BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK: Scotland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
MSPs want GM trial halted
Tractor at Munlochy on the Black Isle
Campaigners want the crop to be "ploughed in"
MSPs have called for a genetically modified crop trial in Scotland to be scrapped amid concerns about its environmental impact.

The transport and environment committee has urged the Scottish Executive to plough up the oilseed rape crop, which is beginning to flower at Munlochy on the Black Isle.

It voted five to four in favour of the recommendation that the trial could harm the environment and the food chain.

Robin Harper
Robin Harper: "Trials are wholly unacceptable"
However, the Scottish Executive has warned that following the recommendation would be illegal because it was "not founded on science".

The committee's call was made despite assurances in a letter to MSPs from the Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie that there is no new evidence the trial poses any harm.

Mr Finnie also said he was bound by a European directive to allow the test to continue.

However, Tuesday's recommendation has been welcomed by campaigners and the Scottish Greens.

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

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.

Potential impact

The committee made its decision after considering a petition handed over to it was signed by more than 4,000 people, including Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

It also discussed new evidence from a number of sources, including English Nature and the European Environment Agency, said to indicate damage caused by GM crops.

Green MSP Robin Harper said he was "delighted" by the committee's decision.

"If we recommend to the minister that he orders the ploughing in of this crop at Munlochy, which he is quite entitled to do, this will mean that if he is not disposed to doing it, he must at least come back with a clear scientific justification for letting that crop flower," Mr Harper said.

GM protester
Campaigners have registered their concerns

"The new evidence that we have received puts in serious doubt claims that continuing with such GM trials will not potentially impact wildlife or human health.

"GM crop trials such as those being undertaken at Munlochy are a wholly unacceptable experiment upon the Scottish environment."

Campaigner Anthony Jackson said the minister should take on board the committee's recommendation and plough in the field.

"We are delighted and we need the minister to listen to the committee, it recommended the crop should be ploughed up," Mr Jackson said.

Environmental impact

"We agree with that and we want to see it happen.

"It would only take two hours to plough the field. We had cross-party support on the committee and it disagrees with Mr Finnie's stance."

However, the Scottish Executive said it would be breaching European law if it followed the committee's recommendation.

No new evidence has emerged which calls into question the safety of the Scottish trials

Scottish Executive spokesman
"Scottish ministers recognise the strength of feeling which has been raised and note the committee's recommendation," said a spokesman.

"However, it would be illegal to act on this recommendation without evidence of harm.

"The regulatory system places the highest priority on human health and environmental safety. No new evidence has emerged which calls into question the safety of the Scottish trials."

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

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

See also:

28 Mar 02 | Scotland
Freedom for jailed GM crop protester
12 Mar 02 | Scotland
GM trials up for question
10 Sep 01 | Scotland
Finnie welcomes GM crops report
24 Aug 01 | Scotland
GM protesters in court
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Scotland stories