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Louise Batchelor reports
"MSPs have approved a cautious approach"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 19:19 GMT
MSPs back GM trials
GM trials have proved controversial
MSPs have backed the Scottish Executive's precautionary approach to introducing genetically modified crops and food, despite calls to make Scotland a GM free zone.

Health Minister Susan Deacon told a debate in the Scottish Parliament it was not realistic for Scotland to turn its back GM developments.

Although the Tories argued there might be advantages to farmers if Scotland became GM free, they refused to back a Green Party motion calling for the parliament's committees to examine all the implications of planting GM crops.

Scotland's agricultural industry does need assistance, but not of this sort

Kenny MacAskill
The debate followed the announcement last week that at farm near Inverurie, in Aberdeenshire, was to take part in farm scale trials of genetically modified oil seed rape.

Environmentalists and others opposed to GM crops fear that non GM crops will be affected.

Ms Deacon told the parliament the tests would be carefully assessed, strictly controlled and that they were vital to understanding genetically modified crops.

Susan Deacon
Susan Deacon: "Precautionary approach"

She also pledged to keep the public fully informed.

She said: "We are pro safety, pro environment, and we are pro consumer choice.

"I am very aware of the very real and understandable concerns of consumers and of the wider public and GM."

Scottish National Party environment spokesman Kenny MacAskill said it was not about feeding the world but boosting the profits of big business and he argued Scotland should take a different route.

He said: "Scotland's agricultural industry does need assistance, but not of this sort.

Green MSP Robin Harper
Robin Harper: "Irreversible damage"
"This, I believe, is a helping hand from the devil.

"What is the Scottish reputation in the food industry? Quality. Nice market to some extent.

"Like everywhere else, we do have the basic crops, but the image we try to market is Scotland the brand, is top of the range.

"Organic farming is the only growth sector of Scottish farming at the moment. We cannot jeopardise it, we must encourage it and we must plant no environmental time bombs."

'Irreversible damage'

Scottish Green MSP Robin Harper said the trials could do irreversible damage to Scotland's countryside.

He said: "The executive claimed today to be neither for nor against GM and yet they are gambling with the environment by careering ahead with GM crop trials.

"Only last year the National Pollen Research Institute found that GM pollen can travel almost ten times the 50m separation distance which is going to be used between GM trials and surrounding countryside.

"How can that be precautionary?"

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See also:

17 Mar 00 | Scotland
Aberdeen GM crops trial
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
GM trial sites unveiled
28 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Mowlam defends GM policy
15 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Farmers urged to abandon GM trials
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