Scotland is to ban the farming of genetically modified (GM) crops, the nation’s rural affairs secretary announced on Sunday.
Richard Lochhead stated that the Scottish government was not ready to “gamble” with the future of the country’s £14 billion food and drinks sector.
Farming leaders were disappointed by the move.
Under European Union (EU) rules, GM crops must be formally authorized before they can be cultivated.
An amendment came into force earlier this year which permits member states and devolved administrations to restrict or ban the cultivation of GM organisms within their territory.
Mr Lochhead said Scotland’s request for opt-outs from GM crop consent would cover an EU approved variety of genetically modified maize and 6 other GM crops which are awaiting authorization.
He stated that Scotland was recognized around the globe for its “beautiful natural environment” and banning the growing of genetically modified crops would protect and further enhance its “clean, green status”.
Mr Lochhead added: “There isn’t any proof of significant demand for GM merchandise by Scottish consumers and I’m concerned that permitting GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14 billion food and drink sector.
“Scottish food and drinks is valued at home and overseas for its natural, high quality which often attracts a premium price, and I’ve heard directly from food and drink producers in other nations who are ditching GM due to a consumer backlash.”
The announcement was welcomed by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who agreed that the cultivation of GM crops would hurt the country’s environment and reputation for high quality food and drinks.
However she called on ministers to go further by challenging big retailers to improve their labeling to point out whether or not meat, eggs and dairy products come from animals fed on GM feed.
The move has also been broadly welcomed by environment groups.
However Scott Walker, chief executive of farming union NFU Scotland, stated he was disappointed that the Scottish government had determined that no GM crops should ever be grown in Scotland.
“Other countries are embracing biotechnology where appropriate and we should be open to doing the same in Scotland,” he stated.
Huw Jones, professor of molecular genetics at agricultural science group Rothamsted Research, said the announcement was a “sad day for science and a sad day for Scotland.”
He mentioned that GM crops approved by the EU were “safe for people, animals and the environment”.