Scotland Will Bar All Genetically Modified Crops

Aug 17, 2015

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By Ned Stafford

The Scottish government has announced that it intends to ban the cultivation of GM crops approved by EU regulatory authorities within its borders. Scotland’s GM crop ban became feasible legally earlier this year after the European parliament approved a new law that allowed EU member nations to ban GMOs for reasons ‘other than science’, including country planning and socio-economic impact. The new law also extends to devolved administrations, such as Scotland’s, as well as member states.

The announcement was welcomed by environmental groups opposed to GMOs, but unleashed a torrent of criticism from scientists, agribusiness leaders and farm organisations.

Huw Jones, head of cereal transformation at agricultural science institute Rothamsted Research, UK, said: ‘This is a sad day for science and a sad day for Scotland.’


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21 comments on “Scotland Will Bar All Genetically Modified Crops

  • 2
    FrankMill says:

    Why is it that nice people who want to do the best for the environment gladly accept the scientific consensus over global warming but reject the scientific consensus over GMO?



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  • FrankMill
    Aug 17, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Why is it that nice people who want to do the best for the environment gladly accept the scientific consensus over global warming but reject the scientific consensus over GMO?

    The most likely explanation, is that commercial interests misrepresent what the scientific consensus is, and which areas of GMO it covers.

    There have been massive environmental problems and potential problems uncovered in GMO field trials, which have been shrugged off, covered up, and ignored by the salesmen and political lobbyists, of industries which have a long track record of giving false assurances on safety issues.

    In the narrow context of simple GMO foods being safe to eat, that is probably accurate.
    In the wider context of associated increased pesticide use, gene leakage into weed species, and impacts on ecosystems, there is a lack of independent studies, and many ignored warnings the industry does not want to hear.



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  • Alan has a point, but I suspect that this a political move rather than scientific move. Considering that less than 10% of Scottish land is even capable of arable production, I suspect the SNP government is hoping to appeal to those in the market willing to pay a higher price for their produce, as they will consider e.g. Scottish barley, potatoes, oats, etc as somehow ‘superior’ to that available elsewhere.

    Agricultural Land Use in Scotland



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  • Mr DArcy
    Aug 17, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    I suspect the SNP government is hoping to appeal to those in the market willing to pay a higher price for their produce, as they will consider e.g. Scottish barley, potatoes, oats, etc as somehow ‘superior’ to that available elsewhere.

    Scottish potatoes are “superior”, which is why there is a major industry supplying pest and disease free “seed” potatoes to more southerly growers.

    A lot of the meat – sold as organic, is from sheep and cattle grazed on rough pasture – free of sprays and pollution.



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  • krista
    Aug 17, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Ask a starving family in Africa what they think of GMOs.

    Ask them if clean drinking water would be an improvement or if bush meat spreads diseases?

    They have probably never heard of GMOs, although they are probably aware of corrupt governments and multinational corporations stealing their land, – but that has no relevance to methods of farming in Scotland.



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  • From where I write, on the Isle of Arran, west coast of Scotland, it’s true you don’t see the massive tractors spraying insecticides, pesticides and whatever, as you see in say, East Anglia. Indeed Arran is famous for its various breeds of potatoes, the Arran Banner, Pilot, Monarch etc. and yet they are not grown commercially here. The land just doesn’t permit massive modern agriculture. And then there is the added cost of transportation from an island. During the BSE crisis Arran beef was highly prized because of its lack of contact with such intensive farming techniques as practised further south, and therefore deserving of a higher price. On the downside, the magnificent Arran lamb was not allowed to be sold for years after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, because of the fallout that had landed on the hills here. Jeez I was up in those hills and drinking that water in 1986. Luckily, it seems, I am still here to tell the story !

    A political decision by the SNP, based upon what they consider the best practice for Scottish agriculture. Also perhaps just a wee bit of yet another thorn, (or should that be thistle,) in Westminster’s backside. The SNP being the 3rd largest party in the Westminster Parliament. Sorry Alan, IMO, not too many scientific arguments involved here. It’s all about the money.



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  • Mr DArcy
    Aug 17, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Sorry Alan, IMO, not too many scientific arguments involved here. It’s all about the money.

    I think you are basically right. They are refusing to join the rush to up production, in favour of sticking with the successful stable systems they already have.
    Many Scottish farms were also unaffected by BSE problems because they avoided the money-making malpractices which proliferated elsewhere.

    OP – Huw Jones, head of cereal transformation at agricultural science institute Rothamsted Research, UK, said: ‘This is a sad day for science and a sad day for Scotland.’

    I am not surprised that those scientists working on GM projects to increase cereal production, are disappointed at their loss of markets.



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  • The European parliament approved a new law that allowed EU member nations to ban GMOs for reasons ‘other than science’, including country planning and socio-economic impact. The new law also extends to devolved administrations, such as Scotland’s, as well as member states.

    Scotland’s devolved administration could save a lot more Scots by banning heroin rather than GMOs.

    Scotland has an estimated population of 5.35 million people, with recent increases driven mostly by immigration within the UK, amended with smaller numbers from the EU and abroad. With 10% arable land and something over 5 million people, Scotland is a dismal backwater to launch the anti-GMO revolution among world nations portending less-than-promising chances for success. (Apropos of nothing, some wit observed that the Scots are a people who love to sing about being far from home while they’re still there!)



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  • could save a lot more Scots by banning heroin..

    Heroin isn’t a problem. It’s health issue, not a law enforcement one. Someone stone on heroin is no problem to anyone. Apply market forces and give it addicts for free and the business model fails overnight. No funding for the Afghan Taliban.

    We wouldn’t need GMO’s if there was only a billion people on the planet.



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  • Melvin
    Aug 18, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Scotland’s devolved administration could save a lot more Scots by banning heroin rather than GMOs.

    This is a false dichotomy.
    Illegal drugs are imported without regulation from countries outside Scotland’s jurisdiction, while regulation of agriculture and food products, is within its governance and is relatively cheap and easy to enforce.

    With 10% arable land and something over 5 million people,

    This means that 90% of its land is not arable farming.
    Here farm and land-management income is derived from managing the ecology of land, lakes, and rivers, not upping the crop output per hectare with intensive methods which cause pollution of the wider environment from fertilisers and the chemical suppression of pest and disease problems associated with large mono-cultures.

    Scotland is a dismal backwater to launch the anti-GMO revolution among world nations portending less-than-promising chances for success.

    Scotland does not need “an anti-GMO revolution”, it simply preserves its existing systems and avoids reckless experimentation by large corporations on a small part of its economy, which could affect the much larger part of it.
    Much of Scottish land and many river-systems are marginal in a harsh climate. They do not recover quickly from damage.

    It makes much more sense to study the mistakes and benefits being made elsewhere, to take an informed long-term view.



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  • Melvin
    Aug 18, 2015 at 2:49 am

    With 10% arable land and something over 5 million people,

    “Some farmer has made a few extra quid from intensively growing Round-up-Ready cereal, but has wrecked the water supply in the river supplying the local distillery, and has also ruined the local fishery”, is not a productive scenario!



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  • Scotland provides a poor model for agricultural practices that can be applied on economies of scale where the pragmatic measure must be yield-per-hectare in a world with 8 billion mouths to feed.

    For the sake of argument, if we disregard the tiny geographic area and its tiny population whose growth is driven more by immigration than by natural increase, a combination of other factors render the agricultural sector virtually irrelevant. Agriculture accounts for only about 1% of GDP and 1.5% of employment Most of the territory is covered with rocky mountainous terrain, forests and grazing lands leaving only 10% available for cultivation where inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides; crop yields and crop diversity drop out of equations that address the nutritional needs of the native population let alone export food to countries with moderate to large populations. Scotland grows barley and wheat, cereals dedicated to feeding livestock and brewing whiskey. Fish, (and seaweed for Asian markets) and whiskey amended with tobacco products account for the majority of food-beverage exports. Meat (beef and sheep) products pretty much round out food exports. Cultivated land produces little by way of edible human food. (Some potatoes, wheat and produce). Scotland imports produce, fruits and vegetables, largely from the demographic giants in North America and sub-Saharan Africa.

    Banning genetically modified crops in barren Scotland is a non-experiment that has nothing to teach a hungry world whose teeming billions already consume more food than is produced.



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  • Hear, hear, Melvin. You are absoultetly spot-on. When I was recently in a grocery store and reaching for my favorite cereal, I was dismayed to see in the lower right corner a label indicating the company was now a part of the “No GMO Project.” I put it back on the shelf and took the generic version of the same cereal instead. Nothing tells me “stupidity” like “non-GMO” does. Unfortunately, that is what I will now be thinking whenever I hear “Scotland.”



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  • Melvin
    Aug 18, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Scotland provides a poor model for agricultural practices

    I know! The pollution from agriculture is terrible when compared with other countries! – OH WAIT A MINUTE!

    http://www.environment.scotland.gov.uk/get-informed/water/rivers and-canals/

    Key messages

    Scotland has approximately 125,000 km of rivers and 220 km of canals.
    Many rivers are relatively undisturbed by human activity, compared with the majority of rivers elsewhere in the UK and Europe.
    River quality has improved significantly in the last 25 years and just under half of our rivers are now of good or high status.
    Our poorer quality rivers are affected by agriculture, hydropower schemes and urbanisation.
    Ambitious targets have been set for rivers, with an objective for 96% to be at good or high status by 2027.

    Scotland’s rivers are an important part of the landscape, providing water for industry and agriculture and habitats for wildlife. Some prestigious Scottish industries, such as whisky production and fishing, benefit from the high quality of the country’s rivers. Fishing for salmon and sea trout takes place in almost every river, and angling for brown trout is also widespread. It has been estimated that freshwater angling across Scotland as a whole supports around 2,800 jobs, generating nearly £50 million in wages and self-employment income for Scottish households.

    http://www.sepa.org.uk/environment/water/classification/river-water-quality-indicator/

    .The proportion of river length that was classed as slightly polluted, polluted or severely polluted in Scotland rose from 6.8% in 1992, to 7.4% in 1998, before falling to 2.3% in 2012 but rising to 3.4% in 2013.

    The main drivers of slightly polluted, polluted and severely polluted rivers are inputs of nutrients, leading to degraded biological and nutrient quality.

    The proportion of river length classed as unpolluted rose from 85.7% in 2007 to 86.5% in 2010. This has since fallen to 84.8% in 2013. The length of river classed as unimpacted by pollution fell from 12% in 2011 to 11.8% in 2013.



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  • Alan: Many rivers are relatively undisturbed by human activity, compared with the majority of rivers elsewhere in the UK and Europe.

    That’s the point I’m trying to get at. “Human activity” is curbed in Scotland because the population is curbed at small and stable levels (so far). The quality of rivers in Scotland are higher than the rest of Europe because agriculture plays such a minimal role in that country. (Northern geographic isolation, only one contiguous border with midlands England, concentration on ocean fishing industries yielding seafood may also play an environmentally beneficial role). The main cultivated crops are barley and wheat mostly allocated for making whiskey and livestock feed. There is little by way of political pressure or imperative to feed human populations from the 10% of arable land. The administrative unit that regulates fertilizer and pesticide inputs and bans genetically modified crops encompasses a tiny territory with 90% of the land unfit for cultivation and a small stable educated homogeneous population. Scotland is under no pressure to feed its own people or anyone else, so the regulations and bans are a luxury, an invidious virtue, they can afford.

    If world population had stabilized as recently as 2000 at 6 billion people, statistically the toxic inputs for increasing crop yields to meet increased nutritional needs could have been reduced by 30 to 40% by 2025.
    The human species ain’t got the good sense to stabilize then reduce their over breeding, the easy course to sustainability. We gotta eat but but collectively our species insists on adding 4 to 5 billion more people to world population over this century. What’s to be done? Move swiftly to organic farming and tell billions of people to skip every meal for the rest of their short miserable lives?



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  • Melvin
    Aug 19, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    What’s to be done? Move swiftly to organic farming

    Sustainable agriculture and reducing ecological damage would be an excellent move.

    and tell billions of people to skip every meal for the rest of their short miserable lives?

    Nope! Tell the plague of humans to curtail their numbers and their levels of consumption, live within their means, stop ravaging the planet, and live in a sustainable manner.

    … . . Oh and stop those engaged in over-consumption and over-population, from invading and intruding on areas where the locals are running sustainable systems.



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  • Nope! Tell the plague of humans to curtail their numbers and their levels of consumption, live within their means, stop ravaging the planet, and live in a sustainable manner.

    Amen! We’ve only just begun but the century holds promise for rapid progress after many defeats. Just as with the destructive delusions of religion.

    … . . Oh and stop those engaged in over-consumption and over-population, from invading and intruding on areas where the locals are running sustainable systems.

    Yes: Keep Scotland Green! The recommendation touches on the sensitive issue of immigration -perhaps inadvertently. Demographic realities will accelerate the push-pull forces of emigration-immigration in the 21st century. Ethnic European populations in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand along with some Asian populations in Japan and elsewhere have stabilized. They have stopped growing through natural increase with birthrates settling at or below replacement levels. All global population growth due to natural increase will occur outside Europe, especially in Africa and the Indian subcontinent, with central and southeast Asia, and the middle east, and Latin America contributing. Demographers predict a growing share of immigrant populations for Europe with the aging and decline of European ethnic populations. The EU should expect an unprecedented demographic shift in coming decades and continued population growth in the century bolstered by non-European immigration.

    (Disclaimer: The comment centers on demographic realities -on numbers. No anti-immigration or xenophobic “message” is intended. Immigrants bring vital talents, productivity and diversity to the countries they settle in. With respect to carrying capacity, numbers, however, will prove decisive.)



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