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BBC Scotland's Colin Wight reports
"Beekeepers say cross-pollenation will ruin their livelihood"
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Friday, 21 April, 2000, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
GM trial anger rises
Oilseed rape field
The site is earmarked for an oilseed rape test
Opposition to farm scale GM crop trials in Scotland is mounting, as anger spreads about the plantings.

About 25 acres of land near Inverurie, in Aberdeenshire, are to be turned over to experimental oilseed rape over the next three years.

But local opposition is increasing, despite assurances from the Scottish Executive about the safety of the tests.

About 150 people met in Inverurie on Thursday evening to express their opposition and hear from leading environmentalists.
Greenhouse tests cannot mimic true situations

A handful of people at the meeting were in favour of the trials going ahead, but the majority said they were worried about cross-pollenation.

The action against the Daviot farm trial, the only one in Scotland, is being orchestrated by local beekeepers.

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

Potential threat

Les Webster, a spokesman for the Scottish Beekeepers' Association said the GM issue was the most important event to have happened in the industry.

He said: "It certainly poses the greatest potential threat to beekeepers and to the environment."

The apiarists are also worried that the bees could be killed by genetically modified pollen.

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

"It must be remembered that honey bee directly pollinates 80% of the fruit we eat," he added.
Oil seed rape
Farmers have competition overseas

Concern about the trials has also been expressed by local residents.

Gordon McKenzie of the Daviot Community Association said: "There are some obvious concerns from the farming community and from local residents.

"There's also an area of people who seem quite unperturbed about it, but not necessarily particularly for it.

"I think the main concern is that this has taken place without any consultation of us as a community."

The few audience members who did express support for the plans were shouted down.

Possible benefits

Liberal Democrat MSP Nora Radcliffe said the trials should at least be given a chance before a decision was made about the potential effects on the environment.

She said: "This is the next step we have to take to test this technology.

"If it is found to be unsafe, if the tests on the environment show it's had an effect, if it's cut down the insect population, if it's reduced soil diversity, then that's it - we've proved that it's not beneficial and we can abandon it."

At least one local farmer was willing to wait and see what benefits might be drawn from the experiment.
The issue has provoked strong feelings

David Shearer said he would like to see the trials go ahead to establish what exactly the effects would be.

He added: "We are facing competition from Argentina for oil seed rape, from Canada, and if they're getting a commercial advantage on oil seed rape growers in this part of the world, we haven't got a chance.

"BL and Rover got left behind with their cars - the Japanese showed them how to do it with new technology.

"If that happens to us, we're looking for another job."

Liability concern

One of the main speakers at the meeting, Lang Banks of Friends of the Earth, said one of the principal concerns was the issue of liability if anything did go wrong.

He said: "The farmer's going to have to carry the can.

"We want to see the liability put at the door of the companies, not the farmer."

Bill McFarlane Smith, head of information at the Scottish Crop Research Institute which is co-ordinating the trials, said he was not qualified to decide who should accept liability, adding that it was a legal argument.

But he said that most evidence on pollen contamination showed that while pollen can travel large distances, the actual impact on the environment was negligible.

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See also:

20 Apr 00 | Scotland
Call to halt GM crops trial
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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