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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 13:17 GMT
Executive backs UK GM crop move
GM crops
Devolution is having an influence on the GM debate
The Scottish Executive is supporting the Westminster government on the growing of GM maize in the UK.

The executive has said that GM maize can be grown in Scotland but only after Westminster seeks an amendment to the regulations on growing the crop.

The announcement follows the approval given by Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett for the crop to be planted.

Despite giving their backing, Scottish ministers plan to help create GM-free zones in some parts of the country.

The executive is also planning legislation to govern how GM farmers could live side-by-side with conventional and organic growers.

They lack the backbone to tell London 'no' and their voluntary opt-out is nothing less than a wimp-out
Roseanna Cunningham
Deputy Environment Minister Allan Wilson said: "We will not allow crops to be grown in Scotland where there is evidence of increased harm.

"There is no green light for GM crops in Scotland. The GM debate made clear that the public are uneasy about GM and that there is little support for early commercialisation of GM crops in Scotland."

Mr Wilson said that while the decision could allow the commercial cultivation of GM maize, there was "no prospect" of any GM crop being grown in Scotland before spring 2005 at the earliest.

Opponents of GM crops have criticised the executive's stance and accused ministers of failing to stand up to the UK government.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: "Once GM maize is on the UK seed list, then Scotland's doors will be wide open to GM crops, in addition to contamination of the Scottish environment and food chain.

"A voluntary GM-free zone is not 'action' - it amounts to little more than a PR exercise as a way of putting on a brave face."

He highlighted the coalition role of the Liberal Democrats, whom they accused of abandoning their principles.

"Not only have the Lib Dems reneged on the partnership agreement, they have gone against their own policy and have a diametrically opposed position to that of Charles Kennedy and the rest of the UK party," Mr Ruskell said.

'Bizarre decision'

Scottish National Party deputy leader, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, said: "The executive accept that Scotland should not have and does not want GM crops yet they refuse to use the powers they have to block them. That's a bizarre decision.

"They lack the backbone to tell London 'no' and their voluntary opt-out is nothing less than a wimp-out."

For the Conservatives, Alex Johnstone MSP said: "If it is in the power of the Scottish Executive to delay implementation of this decision in Scotland, then they should do so."

BBC Scotland's Louise Batchelor
"The executive is going to ask farmers not to grow GM maize"

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