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North-east MSP criticises Westminster over farming plans

By Kyle Ritchie

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Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has slammed Westminster for "breaking its promises" to north-east farmers just weeks after the end of the Brexit transition period.

It comes after the UK Government announced plans to consult on the introduction of gene-editing.

Commercial planting of GM crops is currently banned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland following decisions in 2015 – but without EU protection, the Conservatives are now threatening to overrule the devolved administrations.

Despite the ban, the Internal Market Bill allows ministers to override Scottish Ministers in certain areas, including in farming and food standards.

Mr Stevenson said the proposal to introduce pesticide neonicotinoid is a promise which has been explicitly broken after Michael Gove promised not to U-turn on it. The pesticide is used for sugar beet but is harmful to bees.

MSP Stewart Stevenson has criticised the UK Government.
MSP Stewart Stevenson has criticised the UK Government.

He said: “The harsh realities of the Tories’ power grab bill are coming home to roost now, with Boris Johnson’s government threatening to impose GM crops on Scotland – despite a ban.

“Our local food and drink sector is world-renowned for being of the highest quality, so these plans to introduce GM crops will come as a devastating blow to the industry that is already struggling to deal with the impact of Brexit.

“Thanks to the Tories, the UK’s global reputation may well be damaged beyond repair, but we want to maintain Scotland’s clean, green reputation when it comes to food and drink standards.

“If the Tories won’t listen to the warnings from Scottish farmers right here in the north-east, and across Scotland, then it is clear the only way to protect Scotland’s interests is as an independent, European nation.”

A spokesman for the UK Government's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said: "“Emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. Emergency authorisations are used by countries across Europe.

“Pesticides can only be used where we judge there to be no harm to human health and animal health, and no unacceptable risks to the environment. The temporary use of this product is strictly limited to a non-flowering crop and will be tightly controlled to minimise any potential risk to pollinators.”

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