Genetically Modified Organisms

Student Finance – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 27th April 2000.

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Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat 2:30 pm, 27th April 2000

I declare an interest as a River Tweed commissioner.

To ask the Scottish Executive what controls are in place to prevent the release of genetically modified salmon or other GM fish species into the environment. (S1O-1557)

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

I am not a River Tweed commissioner.

Any proposal to release GM fish into the environment would be subject to consent from the Scottish Executive under the strict EU and UK regulatory framework. No application for such a release has been submitted, and we are not aware of any plans for such an application.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

I thank the minister for his reassuring reply. He will know of concerns that escaped farmed salmon can dilute the gene pool of salmon and sea trout in our rivers. Will he bear that in mind if there are any applications to farm GM salmon in Scottish waters?

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

Yes. Wild salmon fisheries are important to the Scottish rural economy. It would be fair to assume that the either deliberate or accidental introduction of very large alien fish into rivers such as the Tweed could threaten wild fish stocks. I am certain that the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment would take account of that consideration in determining such an application. The Scottish Executive would certainly take account of such considerations.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

Does the minister agree that if the issue arises, it should be brought to the Parliament before any decision is made?

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

Any decision will be made under the regulatory framework that has been established by the United Kingdom and the European Union. The final authority, as far as Scotland is concerned, will be the Scottish Executive, which is answerable to this Parliament and rightly so.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

I thank the minister for his reassuring answers. I am not one of those commissioners either. In a constituency such as mine, the rod and line industry is jittery. Will the minister convey his reassurances, via suitable channels, to that industry?

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

I acknowledge the importance of angling interests to the Scottish rural economy in constituencies such as Jamie Stone's.

I draw members' attention to the consultation document that I published on Tuesday this week, on protecting and promoting Scotland's freshwater fisheries and fish. This is an important issue for the whole country. I hope that members will encourage angling associations and clubs to contribute to that consultation. This is an industry and an interest with great potential for our rural economy. It is important for our environment, and we will take that into account in all our decisions.