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Friday, 9 June, 2000, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
'No harm' from GM crops
Oilseed rape
The GM crops entered the food chain
A food expert has said there is no risk to public health from the genetically modified crops mistakenly planted and harvested in Scotland last year.

In the latest twist to the GM crops saga, it emerged that oilseed rape seeds contaminated with genes from other species were sown in 1999 and later entered the food chain.

The chairman of the Scottish Food Advisory Committee, Sir John Arbuthnott, said people would not have been harmed by eating the produce.

Vegetable oil would be safe because it was processed and husks fed to animals posed no significant risk, he added.

Ross Finnie speaks in the Scottish Parliament
Ross Finnie: "Regrettable situation"
The committee provides the Scottish Food Standards Agency, launched in April, with independent information and advice on food safety and standards issues.

On Thursday, Scottish Rural Affairs Minister, Ross Finnie, told the parliament that seed from a Canadian firm, Advanta, were produced in 1998 and sold and sown in Scotland in 1999 and 2000.

He told MSPs: "I should remind this parliament that the Food Standards Agency is satisfied there is no added risk to public health.

"Similarly, the preliminary view of the Advisory Committee on Animal Feeding stuffs is that there is no added risk from feeding material to animals from this contaminated seed."

'Absolutely shocking'

Scottish National Party MSP, Dorothy-Grace Elder, said: "This is absolutely shocking. It is even more shocking than what we learned last week.

"We now know that almost double the number of hectares were planted with GM seeds in 1999 and harvested."

"That material is now in the food chain for both animals and humans."

Food Standards Agency logo
The agency says the crops are safe to eat
Last month, Mr Finnie advised farmers who had accidentally planted the seed to destroy the crops and seek compensation from the firm, which has since agreed to make the payments.

The European Union has now given farmers the go-ahead to plough in the plants and retain their arable aid subsidy.

Mr Finnie said: "I am delighted with this news. This is a big step forward for farmers who have grown contaminated oilseed rape unknowingly.

"Subject to any final advice from NFUS to its members, they can now destroy the crop secure in the knowledge that they will not suffer arable aid penalties through circumstances outwith their control.

"It is now quite clear that this is the best approach for farmers to take, but they must of course confirm that the seed they have sown is from a contaminated batch."

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See also:

23 May 00 | UK Politics
Protest over GM blunder
01 Jun 00 | Scotland
Al-Fayed anger in GM seed row
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