The SNPʼs political group in the European Parliament continues to be at the forefront of campaigning against moves to permit the contamination of our environment and food chain by Genetically Modified Organisms.
Our MEPs welcomed a European Commission decision, taken in mid-September, not to rush ahead with a raft of GMO approvals. In a significant U-turn, the outgoing Prodi Commission yielded to substantial pressure from the environmental lobby and from public opinion, by postponing a widely expected decision on new labelling limits for GMO contaminated seeds.
Now any decision on the matter will have to be taken by the new Commission, which is due to take office in November – subject to approval by MEPs.
The incoming Commission now has an excellent opportunity to draw up a new proposal that guarantees freedom of choice for growers and consumers. There is massive public opposition across Europe to GM crops and the last thing the outgoing Commission should have considered rushing through unacceptable legislation.
The Commission should bear in mind the European Parliament's resolution not to approve the release of any more GM crops until rules on coexistence – including a system of civil responsibility and adhering to the polluter pays principle – have been adopted and put in place throughout the EU.
To proceed with a decision to establish a threshold of 0.3% for unlabelled GM seed contamination of maize and oilseed rape would have amounted to legitimising GM contamination by stealth, effectively opening the door to new cross-contamination, and flouting principles on co-existence between GM and non-GM crops which gained majority support when introduced last November by our group in the European Parliament.
A separate development at the same meeting saw the Commission agreeing to a proposal authorising the importation of a GM oilseed rape. The bureaucrats seem determined to spite survey findings which show that 70% of EU citizens are opposed to GM crops. The Council of Ministers now has to decide whether to accept or reject the Commissionʼs proposal. Westminster ministers will once again determine Scotlandʼs fate.
There is no doubt in my mind that Scotlandʼs food production industry would gain commercial advantage from being free from contamination, as consumers seek to avoid the unknown effects of GM technology. Scots agriculture currently has a reputation for quality produce and naturally reared livestock, which should be built upon, not sacrificed, in what is a highly competitive international market place.