Furor over GE Crop Test Sites in Scotland

Furor over GE Crop Test Sites in

Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland)
August 22, 2001
GM go-ahead on the Black Isle ignores mass protest

By: Les Parker, Sarah Bruce, and Nathaniel Anderson

PROTESTERS who had staged a huge anti-GM crop rally in Inverness
reacted furiously last night to the announcement that two trials are to go
ahead. The news broke only days after Scotland's biggest such protest
and has provoked unprecedented legal moves.

Opponents of the decision to run trials of GM oilseed rape on a Black Isle
farm are preparing to take the Executive to court to overturn the decision.
The convener of Highland Council warned the Executive it faced a backlash.
The decision to host the trials at Roskill Farm, Munlochy, was not confirmed
on Monday as expected, after more than 500 protesters had marched on
Inverness on Saturday.

It came only a day late.

Two fields of GM rape will be grown at Munlochy with a further two on
Aberdeenshire farms at Daviot and Rothienorman. All are in traditional
growing areas for autumn-sown rape, said the Executive.

The environmental group Highlands and Islands GM Concern gave warning
it was seeking legal advice on blocking the trials on the Black Isle. Its concerns
centre on the effects of a herbicide to be used.

Officials insisted that the variety of oilseed rape in the North trials had
been grown under research conditions for 10 years without detriment.
GM Concern chairman Kenny Taylor said: "There has essentially been
no public consultation on this, other than one advertisement placed by
the company several weeks ago . . .

"We've discovered that there could be a case for the Executive to answer
on this.

"We're now seeking to find other like -minded individuals and partner
bodies to join with us in taking this to court."

Highland Council convener David Green also appreciated local feeling.
He said: "I have absolutely no doubt that attitudes will now harden . . .
"I relayed the strength of the local concern to the rural affairs minister
recently when I underlined the council's view that no further trials should
be approved until the Agriculture and Environmental Commission had
reported on their findings of the first trial . . . this advice has been ignored."
David Alston, Black Isle North councillor, in whose area the trials will be
held, said: "For over a year, the council has campaigned for greater
openness and accountability on GM crop trials.

"We went to the Court of Session to try, unsuccessfully, to bring crop
trials within the planning process; we brought the Agriculture, Environment
and Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) to the Highlands to take evidence
on the trial at Munlochy last year; and we have established, through a
Highland-wide survey, that the majority are opposed to both the crop
trials and to future commercial growing of GMOs.

"In fact, even if there were additional safeguards, only 21% would support
further trials.

"We have a clear position based on the precautionary principle."
Mr Alston added that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) had raised
specific concerns.

"Ross Finnie (Rural Affairs Minister) has repeatedly said that he can only
act on the scientific advice given to him. This appears to be clear advice,
from his scientific advisers, that there are concerns, specific to this
site, which have not been addressed."

An MSP reacted furiously to the Aberdeenshire green light.
The Scottish National Party's North-east member, Brian Adam, said the
Government's approach was shrouded in secrecy, describing the public
consultation as a sham.

"There doesn't appear to be any will in Government to back the
overwhelming public view on GM crop trails. Their consultation is just
a joke." The Executive stood by its decision.

"Approval was granted following detailed advice from a variety of bodies
including Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection
Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, the Advisory Committee on
Releases to the Environment and the Food Standards Agency," said a

"All deemed the crops to pose no threat to the environment or people living
near . . .

"All four sites will take place under closely supervised and regulated
conditions. Should any potentially harmful effects be identified, the trial
will be stopped and the crop destroyed."

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