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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003

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GM Crops/Food News & Links Farming News  

The Highland Council is being recommended to take active steps to encourage the establishment of the Highlands as a Genetically Modified Free Zone. The advice comes from its Land and Environment Select Committee, which believes that following farmscale trials comparing GM Herbicide Tolerant crops with conventional crops, there is no evidence to date to support the claim that GM crops will benefit the environment.

The Select Committee does not wish to see commercial growing of GM crops in the Highlands. It is eager to establish how a ban can be made legally binding. The Committee has recommended that the Council opens discussions with the 10 European regions which are currently involved in an appeal to the European Union to recognise legal status for GM Free Zones.  Councillors also recommended discussions with key agencies, interested public groups and adjacent local authorities to progress introducing a GM Free Zone in the Highlands and Islands.

Presently there are no commercial GM crops grown in the UK.  In the event that GM crops do become licensed, the Council calls on SEERAD to introduce rules on co-existence to ensure that GM crops grown in any other area of the United Kingdom do not compromise the GM free status in the Highlands.

Select Committee Chairman Councillor Richard Durham said: “When you take into account the unproven nature of the technology and the public’s widespread concern about the impact of GM Crops, the view of the Select Committee is that the Council should be adopting the precautionary principle as regards GM crops and seeking to be a GM free area.”

Vice-Convener Councillor Michael Foxley said: “From the evidence available to us it is clear there is no place for GM crops in the Highlands. We now need to investigate how we can make a ban in our area legally binding. Our future in the Highlands is to produce food from a clean natural environment and that means no commercial planting of GM crops."

The debate at the Land and Environment Select Committee resulted from the recent publication of the findings of the GM Nation public debate and the scientific results of the UK's  GM crop trials which indicated that the cultivation of GM crops – such as spring sown oilseed rape – reduces biodiversity compared to their conventional equivalents.