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Environment correspondent Louise Batchelor
"Yellow fields of rape cut across Scotland"
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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
Scottish GM crop fears
The NFU says there is no risk from the crop
The Scottish Green Party is demanding the immediate destruction of genetically modified oilseed rape sown accidentally in Scotland.

More than half of the seed sown in the UK may be in Scotland, it has emerged.

The GM seeds were mistakenly mixed with another batch by Canadian company Advanta and sold to UK farmers.

About 9,000 hectares of the contaminated crop were grown in the UK last year and 5,000 hectares are thought to have been planted this year.

Tractor ploughing field
There is concern the GM crops will cross-pollinate
Douglas Morrison, a senior official with the National Farmers Union in Scotland, said: "We have been told, and it doesn't surprise me, that probably slightly more than half of this is sown in Scotland."

The exact location of the sites remains unclear.

He said the oilseed rape involved in the scare was a variety that grew in a very short time and was suitable for countries with poorer climates. This made it more common in the north of the UK.

Mr Morrison appealed for the problem to be kept in proportion, saying it amounted to only a minute percentage of the total crop, and the contaminated variety was of a type approved in Britain as safe for human consumption.

He added: "The first thing we have to do as growers, and we will be working with them, is to consult with our customers.

"We would at this stage accept the government view that there is no risk to human health."

Robin Harper
Robin Harper: Letter to minister
The Green MSP, Robin Harper, has written to Rural Affairs Minister, Ross Finnie, to demand immediate action to prevent the crops from spreading further.

In it, he says: "In view of the fact that these crops have not yet flowered I write to request that the government provide immediate compensation to all farmers who have planted this seed or who may have planted this seed to enable them to plough the crops in immediately.

"We now have the equivalent of an inadvertent 5,000-acre farm-scale trial which could not possibly be adequately monitored.

"These crops must be destroyed immediately.

Some environmental groups have called for the crops to be destroyed before they flower, although Westminster Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, said there was no threat to public health or the environment.

Protesters cleared

Legal experts said Advanta had not committed an offence.

Last week, six protesters were cleared of obstructing police at a demonstration against GM crops at a farm at Penicuik, near Edinburgh.

Four of them, however, have been ordered to return to Edinburgh Sheriff Court in August to face charges of vandalism.

Farm-scale trials of genetically modified crops are also under way at a farm near Inverurie, in Aberdeenshire.

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