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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Plea for a 'GM free' Scotland
GM crops
GM crop trials have proved highly controversial
Scotland's farmers have "nothing to gain" from growing genetically modified crops, environmentalists have claimed.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is now calling on the Scottish Executive to encourage farmers to grow food free from GM.

It issued the plea following the publication of a report by the UK Government which predicted that the commercial growing of GM crops would bring little short-term benefit to the British economy.

The first of three major reports from the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, it said only a narrow range of existing GM crops are suited to British conditions.

It also claimed the lack of demand for the GM foods from shoppers is likely to limit the extent to which farmers grow the controversial new varieties.

However, the report also states that future GM crops could offer wide ranging benefits to both farmers and consumers in the longer term - such as foods with added nutrients.

There is nothing to be gained from Scotland's farmers going GM
Friends of the Earth Scotland
Duncan McLaren, FoE chief executive, described the results as a victory for campaigners.

He said that the executive should concentrate on the growing consumer demand for GM-free food rather than consider trialling modified crops north of the border.

"Despite Tony Blair's support for GM his officials have been forced to conclude that there is little economic justification for granting commercial approval to GM crops in the short term," he said.

"If public opposition continues, the long-term prospect for these crops is equally bleak.

"Here in Scotland, the executive should finally recognise that there is nothing to be gained from Scotland's farmers going GM. "

GM protesters
Protesters have often attacked GM fields
Mr McLaren added: "The executive should instead help Scotland's farmers and food manufacturers meet the considerable world-wide demand for GM-free food by keeping Scotland's fields free from GM crops."

A spokeswoman for the executive said it welcomed the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit report.

"The report - along with the outcome of the public debate, the science review and the results of the farm scale evaluations - will help to inform future executive policy on GM," she said.

"The executive would encourage those with comments on the report to take advantage of the strategy unit's request for responses."

The 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, which ends on 18 July.

The results of three-year farm-scale GM crop trials are due in the autumn.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Tom Heap
"So long as the public remain hostile, the GM business will struggle"



SEE ALSO:
'Little economic benefit' from GM
11 Jul 03  |  Politics
Ministers lobbied over GM crops
10 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Euro vote ends GM food ban
02 Jul 03  |  Europe
Protestors target GM farm
01 Jul 03  |  Lincolnshire
Public debate on GM crops begins
03 Jun 03  |  Science/Nature
Village votes on GM crop trials
06 Mar 03  |  England
Q&A: GM and politics
26 Jul 02  |  Science/Nature


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