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TITLE:  Finnie bans crop trials after fears over GM food
SOURCE: Scotland on Sunday, UK, by Jason Allardyce
        http://www.scotlandonsunday.com/scotland.cfm?id=1223572002
DATE:   Nov 3, 2002

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------

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  "The U-turn follows recent evidence that a genetically modified crop
   trial in the Highlands has been harvested to be sold to British
   consumers in cooking oil, margarine and ice cream. Those plants were
   grown as a 'comparator' crop alongside GM oilseed rape at Munlochy,
   Inverness-shire."
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Finnie bans crop trials after fears over GM food

GM CROP trials are to be banned in Scotland next year amid growing public 
concern at the risks posed by so-called ‘Frankenstein foods’.

Scotland on Sunday can reveal that rural development minister Ross Finnie 
intends to reject any further applications from biotech companies for 
trials for at least a year while the Executive examines the effects of 
existing trials which end next summer.

The moratorium, which would put Scotland at odds with England, where trials 
will continue next year, is a major concession by Finnie, widely criticised 
for refusing to stop the crop trials in the past.

There has been mounting concern following evidence that oilseed rape grown 
as part of GM crop trials in Scotland may accidentally have entered the 
food chain.

Britain’s Medical Research Council also recently revealed that new genes 
inserted into food could provoke allergic reactions and alter human DNA, 
switching on potentially harmful "silent genes".

The research body said GM foods could also alter the balance of bacteria in 
the gut or pass on resistance to antibiotics.

Finnie, who has come under intense pressure from his Lib Dem colleagues to 
ban GM trials, has agreed the party’s election manifesto next year should 
include a commitment to an immediate moratorium.

In an attempt to bolster the party’s green credentials, the manifesto will 
commit Finnie to ensuring that "no further GM trials will be permitted 
until the previous series of trials have been thoroughly analysed and a 
public debate concluded".

It will also pledge that this process will not be completed at least until 
the summer of 2004, giving ministers a chance to "take stock" and reassess 
the case for GM foods. In view of the extent of public concerns, it could 
be the first step towards a complete ban on any further GM trials in 
Scotland.

At present, Executive policy is to block any commercial growing of GM crops 
until the current trials have been assessed, rather than block further 
trials.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: "We are saying there will have to be a pause 
while we evaluate the outcome of these trials . Concerns have been 
expressed and the right way forward is to check the results of the trials 
first to see if those concerns are valid."

The U-turn follows recent evidence that a genetically modified crop trial 
in the Highlands has been harvested to be sold to British consumers in 
cooking oil, margarine and ice cream. Those plants were grown as a 
"comparator" crop alongside GM oilseed rape at Munlochy, Inverness-shire.

Ministers have also been alarmed by research which suggests honey from a 
hive in Fife may have been contaminated with pollen from a nearby GM crop.

Last night the concession received a mixed reaction from environmental 
campaigners.

Stan Blackley, a spokesman for the Scottish Green Party, supported the move.

He said: "We would be concerned that he would otherwise approve further GM 
trials next year. We have always had our doubts that he would stop them 
going ahead."

But he claimed Finnie was motivated by a desire not to lose votes because 
his decision to "rubber-stamp" previous applications for trials was out of 
step with public opinion.

Blackley added: "We have had so many food scares in the past 10 years and I 
think the public as a whole want assurances that what is being done to our 
food is not going to affect them in a strange way when they eat it."

Sue Mayer, the director of Genewatch UK, which is concerned about GM 
testing, said: "A breathing space like this would be a useful step forward 
and probably do the government a great deal of good."

But Kevin Dunion, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, described the 
new policy as "cynical" , claiming trials intended to convince the public 
GM crops were safe to use had been badly managed and further GM planting 
could lead to widespread contamination .

The GM industry, which regards health concerns as misplaced and not based 
on fact, has reacted with dismay to political resistance to its plans.

A spokeswoman for CropGen, a GM information campaign funded by the biotech 
industry, condemned "the barrage of misinformation and unsupported 
assertions about all manner of hidden dangers" and stressed the present 
generation of GM foods is "safe to eat".

 

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