On August 8th, Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lockheed declared Scotalnds intention to opt out of growing genetically modified crops (GM/GMO) to protect it’s clean, green status. According to the BBC, Mr Lochhead stated “There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14billion food and drink sector.
“Scottish food and drink is valued at home and abroad for its natural, high quality which often attracts a premium price, and I have heard directly from food and drink producers in other countries that are ditching GM because of a consumer backlash.”
“The Scottish Government has long-standing concerns about GM crops – concerns that are shared by other European countries and consumers, and which should not be dismissed lightly.”
This decision was also welcomed by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who believes that GM crops would harm the country’s natural environment and reputation for high quality food and beverages. Although not all industries are happy about the decision. The chief executive of the farming union NFUS, Scot Walker was disappointed by the decision to ban all GM crops, as he believes embracing biotechnology in some sectors could help future crop stability. Andrew McCornick, vice-president of the NFUS, also criticized the ban, telling the Scotsman that he feared it render Scottish farmers less competitive if farmers elsewhere, like those in the UK, use GM crops. In the US, this has not been the case as the organic industry has benefitted and grown by 9.5% overall in 2011 reaching $31.5 billion.
The European Union (EU) introduced a new rule in January allowing countries to opt out of growing EU-authorized GM crops (Cotton, maize, microorganisms, oilseed rape, soybean, sugar beet, and swede rape). EU countries have until October 3 to opt out of the varieties currently being assessed for cultivation by the European Commission. Scotland isn’t the first to take advantage of this new rule, so far Germany, France, Belgium, Poland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece, and Luxembourg have enacted a full or partial ban on GM crops within certain regions or throughout their countryside.
The increase in herbicides on GM products has shown a direct detrimental impact on the natural environment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many scientists have done studies on the impact of herbicides on wildlife. Many species like frogs, bees, salamanders, and butterflies are very susceptible to the use of these chemicals. The decline in bee and butterfly populations have been linked to the use of herbicides and pesticides in the agricultural industry.
These chemicals don’t just impact wildlife. There are currently thousands of elementary schools in close proximity to sites being sprayed with chemicals like dicamba and 2,4-D. These chemicals evaporate and can drift well beyond the fields. Exposure to these chemicals can increase risk for reproductive problems, Parkinson’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Click on the map by EWG to see schools close to fields of potential exposure to chemicals.