Genetic Modification (National Public Debate)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 12th June 2003.

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Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green 2:30 pm, 12th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive how the genetic modification national public debate is being conducted in Scotland and what role the Executive is playing in that debate. (S2O-169)

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

The public debate is being managed at arm's length from Government by an independent steering board. It is for the steering board to run the debate as it sees fit to ensure a credible and wide-ranging dialogue with the Scottish public. The first event in Scotland took place in Glasgow yesterday. Local events are expected to follow throughout Scotland.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I thank the minister for his answer. I noted with interest that The Scotsman today quoted Ross Finnie as saying:

"I'm wholly opposed to any conclusions being arrived at before the results of the GM trials are known."

Given that statement, will the Executive give the public an opportunity to debate GM after the trials' results are known?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I saw that quote and I noted that Mr Ruskell was quoted extensively in the same report. I am not sure whether the quote from Ross Finnie is accurate. The farm-scale evaluations are assessing the impact on biodiversity of herbicide-tolerant crops. The debate is obviously intended to cover much more than that because it will deal with broader GM issues. I assure Mr Ruskell that there will be an opportunity for the public and environmental groups to comment on the farm-scale evaluation results.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Can the minister tell us whether Mr Finnie, when he was in Brussels recently, took the chance to speak to the Belgian environment minister, who has banned GM field trials in his country? That is unlike Mr Finnie, who continues to ignore the concerns of two parliamentary committees and the views that the Scottish public have overwhelmingly expressed against GM planting.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I have not had the opportunity to discuss that particular matter with Mr Finnie, because he is in Luxembourg. Of course, Belgium is bound by exactly the same European directive as the UK is. Evidence of potential harm is required to support any decision to halt the release of a GM plant. It is erroneous to suggest, as Mr Gibson did, that there is somehow a moratorium on GM releases in Belgium. There is not.