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Scientific institutions decry Scotland's GM crops ban

26 September 2015

The Scottish National Party (SNP) government's decision to announce a GM ban in Scotland has raised concerns among the scientific, business and farming communities.

They say the Scottish government's action was aimed at safeguarding the reputation of Scotland's 14-billion food and drink sector and had no scientific backing had made the ban even less acceptable (See: Scotland bans all GM crops to preserve natural environment).

Genetically modified (GM) crops had been a subject of controversy ever since they first emerged in the late 1990s and were immediately branded ''Frankenfoods'' by opponents.

Last week one of Scotland's most eminent scientific figures, professor Hugh Pennington, warned of a danger that top experts might be less inclined to work with the Scottish Government over what could be perceived, as its "hostile approach" to science.

Further the failure to fill the post of chief scientific advisor to the Scottish Government, after a recruitment drive earlier this year, only added to the concerns surrounding the government's approach to science.

According to the country's most respected academic institutions, banning GM crops could damage Scotland's ability to attract the best scientists, stunt the growth of businesses and lead to the country being perceived as ''anti-science''.

In an official advice paper, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) criticised the ban, saying it had used ''emotive language likely to fuel negative public perceptions about GM'' and had assumed ''a degree of public hostility'' about the technology which does not exist.

Calling for ''rational and respectful debate'' on the issue, the RSE said an outright ban on GM crops ''does nothing to enhance Scotland's longstanding reputation for scientific creativity'' and may ''damage its ability to attract and retain innovative researchers and disadvantage the growth of important Scottish businesses''.

According to the SNP, ministers took the decision to ban GM crops in order to protect what it called the ''clean and green'' reputation of Scotland's produce.

However, the RSE says this made little sense as much of the country's food and drink industry already depended on raw materials supplied from other countries, which it said might not be GM-free.

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