If Scottish ministers follow the example of Westminster on new rules for growing GM crops they will break European law.
Legal experts have concluded that the regime proposed by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in London to prevent organic food from being contaminated by GM crops grown nearby is “fundamentally flawed”.
The Scottish environment minister, Ross Finnie, has long been expected to publish GM “co-existence” rules similar to Defra’s. But although Defra’s consultation finished more than a week ago, Finnie’s has yet to begin.
Oddly, an announcement that Finnie’s consultation had opened was posted on the Scottish Executive’s website on 29 September, but removed within hours (see screen grab below). It was an “administrative error”, according to the Scottish Executive.
Now the campaign group, GM Freeze, has obtained a legal opinion on Defra’s plans from two of the UK’s leading specialists on European law, Paul Lasok and Rebecca Haynes. Defra plans were “inconsistent with community law”, they concluded.
Defra proposed to “minimise” GM contamination though the law required the government to “avoid” it. Defra’s suggestion that no public register of GM crops was necessary ignored a European directive, the lawyers said.
GM Freeze will be writing to the Executive this week, warning ministers not to make the same mistakes as Defra. “The Executive needs to consider the legal flaws in Defra’s consultation very carefully if it is to avoid making proposals that are at odds with European law,” said Pete Riley, campaign director of GM Freeze.
Green MSP Mark Ruskell added: “It’s time for Finnie to show his hand on GM once and for all and not make the same pro-GM mistakes as Defra.”
The Scottish Executive promised it would respond to GM Freeze. “We will also be issuing a consultation in due course and will consider all responses,” said an Executive spokesperson.