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Scotland: GM Crops Ban

(Aug. 27, 2015) Public opinion in the United Kingdom in the past has been strongly against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically modified (GM) crops. (Adam Vaughn, Public Concern over GM Food Has Lessened, Survey Shows, GUARDIAN (Mar. 9, 2012); Martin Robbins, Hulk Smash GM Crops, GUARDIAN (May 30, 2012) (accessed via Lexis online subscription database.) Scotland has recently announced that it intends to ban GMO crops within its borders by taking advantage of an amendment to the European Union Directive 2001/18/EC that came into force earlier in 2015, which permits Member States, including devolved administrations, to restrict or completely ban the growth of GM crops within their territory. (Press Release, Scottish Government, GM Crop Ban (Aug. 8, 2015); Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 12 March 2001 on the Deliberate Release into the Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms and Repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC, 2001 OJ (L 106) 1, EUR-LEX.)

The United Kingdom is generally viewed as having a restrictive approach towards genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and crops. Genetically modified (GM) crops are currently not grown commercially in the UK, but they are imported. These crops are primarily used in animal feed and a few food products. There is no general prohibition on the planting of GM crops, but planting them is only permitted “if a robust risk assessment indicates that it is safe for people and the environment.” (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs & National Payments Agency, 2010 to 2015 Government Policy: Food and Farming Industry, GOV.UK (updated May 8, 2015); see also Clare Feikert, Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms: England and Wales, LAW LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (Mar. 2014).)

The reaction to the ban among Scottish farmers has been mixed, with some protesting that it will leave them at a disadvantage when compared to farmers in England, where it appears that GM crops of maize and oil seed rape will continue to be utilized for animal feed and to produce energy. (Tom Peterkin, Farmers Alarmed at SNP Pledge to Ban GM Crops, SCOTSMAN (Aug. 9, 2015).) Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary has stated that the purpose of the ban is to preserve and enhance Scotland’s reputation for its “beautiful natural environment” and that it will serve to protect the nation’s “clean green status.” (GM Crop Ban, supra.)