MINISTERS FACE NEW ROW ON GM
CROPS OVER DEMOCRATIC DENIAL
More brilliant stuff from the Highlands
* * *
Ministers face new row on GM crops - The Scotsman 9th November 2000 by John Ross
THE Scottish executive will come under fire on two fronts today over its decision to support GM crop trials in the Highlands without prior consultation with local people.
Executive officials will attend a public meeting in Fortrose in the Black Isle, near the farm at Munlochy where the trials of genetically modified oilseed rape are going ahead.
Objectors have criticised Ross Finnie, the rural affairs minister, for his "cavalier and arrogant" attitude having decided not to attend the event.
Andrew Thompson, of the Highlands and Islands GM Concern action group, said: "It is not right that he should delegate the job of justifying his ministerial actions to his civil servants. Mr Finnie took the decision to allow this trial crop to be planted, without allowing any opportunity for local consultation, and we believe he should have the decency to respond to our repeated requests for a meeting by attending this event in person."
The decision to arrange a public meeting represented a U-turn for Mr Finnie who originally wanted to hold an invitation-only gathering. However Highland Council refused to chair such an event because it was not be to a public event.
The GM group says recent revelations that food products in the US have been contaminated with GM corn not cleared for human consumption have heightened fears about the Highland trials.
It says the corn in question - a variety known as StarLink - was developed by Aventis Crop Science, the company behind the Munlochy experiment.
Dr Kenny Taylor, chairman of the action group, said: "The current biotech food crisis should send the clearest possible message to the Scottish executive not to trust biotech firms to regulate themselves. We should rid Scotland of GM crops before our own farmers, retailers and consumers reap their bitter harvest."
Meanwhile, members of the Highland Council, which went to court to try to stop the GM trial going ahead, will discuss an official’s report which condemns the executive over its "woeful" lack of consultation on the issue.
The Aventis proposals were submitted to the executive in July and approval
was given the following month without consultation with the council, local
people or organisations representing agricultural
Graham Strachan, the council's Inverness area manager, says in a report to the authority's land and environment committee that while regulations in Scotland do not require local consultation, it is within the jurisdiction of the executive to carry it out.
"The lack of clear advance information on what is being planned, how trials will be carried out and the steps that will be taken to monitor the process and safeguard the local environment leaves many members of the public, especially those living in rural communities, dissatisfied with the process."
The council failed in an attempt to have GM crop trials subject to planning regulations to allow the issue to be debated in public before a decision is reached.
However, it is attempting to force the government to consult communities
before approving future GM crop trials by making a submission to the Agriculture
and Environment Biotechnology
Commission, set up this year to give independent advice on issues such as GM trials.