for Sunday Herald, 27 April 2014
The UK environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has admitted breaching an agreement to make Scotland’s opposition to genetically modified (GM) crops clear to European ministers.
He promised the Scottish environment minister, Paul Wheelhouse, that he would say that Scotland took a different view on GM from Westminster during important negotiations at the European Union’s Environment Council in Brussels. But he then failed to do so because he used the wrong speaking notes.
Under interrogation by MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s rural affairs committee last week, Paterson said it was “unfortunate” that he hadn’t said what had been agreed. “I talked to Paul beforehand, we agreed the speaking note and I have to confess I think I read the preceding one,” he said.
Paterson is a keen GM fan, telling a farmers’ conference in Oxford in January that Europe could become “the museum of world farming” if countries failed to embrace GM crops. The Scottish government, however, is opposed to the cultivation of GM crops, believing they could damage the environment and threaten the reputation of Scotland’s food and drink industry.