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Environment correspondent Louise Batchelor
"Beekeepers in Scotland are very worried for their futures"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Call to halt GM crops trial
There are worries about what affect GM crops will have
Beekeepers are leading a campaign to put a stop to Scotland's first farm-scale trial of genetically modified crops.

They are concerned they will not be able to guarantee their honey is GM free if their bees collect pollen from the crops trial area at Daviot near Inverurie.

And they are also worried that the bees could be killed by genetically modified pollen.

It must be remembered that honey bee directly pollinates 80% of the fruit we eat.

John Salt, beekeeper
The concerns will be expressed during a public meeting in Aberdeenshire on Thursday evening.

Scientists do not believe the experimental crops would pose any immediate threat but say they understand the beekeepers marketing concerns.

Professor David Atkinson, principal of research at the Scottish Agricultural College and GM expert, said: "If there is honey in pollen and there are products derived from GM crops then they are going to have a major problem in terms of directly selling it quite apart from whether it is legal in terms of rules or not."

However, he believes that is not sufficient reason to halt the trials.

'Careful assessment'

John Salt, the Scottish Beekeeping Association's expert on GM, reckons members' concerns should not be undermined.

He said: "It must be remembered that honey bee directly pollinates 80% of the fruit we eat."

The get-together is also expected to be attended by environmental pressure groups which claim the trial could have an adverse effect on the local economy.

Prof David Atkinson
Professor David Atkinson: "Major problem"
In March, MSPs backed the Scottish Executive's precautionary approach to introducing genetically modified crops and food.

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

She said the tests at Inverurie would be carefully assessed, strictly controlled and that they were vital to understanding genetically modified crops.

Ms Deacon also pledged to keep the public fully informed.

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

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See also:

23 Mar 00 | Scotland
MSPs back GM trials
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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