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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 05:16 GMT 06:16 UK
Ministers lobbied over GM crops
GM crops
GM crop trials are currently taking place
The Scottish Executive is being urged to oppose the commercial growing of genetically modified crops north of the border.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said that allowing the commercial growth of certain GM strains could lead to other wild plants being contaminated.

The environmental pressure group's call has been backed by Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who said GM seed companies should pay compensation to conventional and organic farmers if their crops are damaged.

The Scottish Executive said ensuring that other crops cannot be affected has been a key factor in choosing trial sites.

The UK Government is set to make a decision later this year on whether or not GM crops should be commercially grown.

It is seeking public opinion on the issue and has launched a website allowing people to have their say in the GM debate.

Wild plants

Friends of the Earth is warning that allowing the large-scale growth of GM crops, like oil seed rape, will almost certainly lead to widespread contamination of other non-GM plants.

It said that research carried out in France suggests pollen from oil seed rape could be carried by wind, bees and human contact, over large distances to other species of wild plants.

Friends of the Earth believe this cross-breeding could result in the creation of superweeds, tolerant to many herbicides.

Scotland is currently home to three main sites for GM experiments, in the Black Isle, Aberdeenshire and Fife.

'Potential disaster'

Friends of the Earth is now lobbying the Scottish Executive not to allow GM crops to be grown commercially in Scotland.

Mr Ruskell said the research only hinted at the effect GM contamination could have on related species.

"Every week now the jigsaw of evidence against GM commercialisation is building up into a vision of potential disaster for the environment and the farming industry," he said.

"If the executive has adopted a 'precautionary principle' over GM then it must take those precautions now and block the commercialisation process in Scotland."

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: "The executive considers that it would be premature to consent to further applications in advance of the outcome of the GM Public Debate and the results of the Farm Scale Evaluations.

"The potential for GM crops to cross-pollinate wild plant relatives is considered as part of the detailed risk assessment that proposed GMO releases have to go through."

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