The debate on whether to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in America has raged on with the House recently passing a bill that would ban mandatory labeling on a state-by-state basis.
But meanwhile “across the pond” in Europe, the debate is not over whether to label Monsanto and others’ highly controversial, lab-created crops: it’s whether to or they should be banned outright.
Recently, the nation of Scotland made a bold step that has people talking in Europe and across the world, and one that could have a dramatic impact on the way people view GMOs going forward at home and abroad.
Saying that his country is not prepared to “gamble” with the future of its popular food and drink sector, Richard Lochhead, the country’s rural affairs secretary, recently announced that Scotland would officially ban the growing of genetically modified crops.
The policy, according to The Guardian, will most likely add to a growing divide with British policy makers in London, but Lochhead was adamant that the country needs to protect the purity and image of its highly respected and lucrative natural foods industry.
The ban will cover both GMO corn and six other genetically engineered crops waiting for approval within Europe.
Scotland is the birthplace of current Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, who worked for the company from 1981 to 1991 as a product development representative. before moving to the United States.
The European Union currently allows member states and devolved administrations to restrict or ban GMOs within their own territory as part of an amendment passed this year.
Under Scotland’s new ban, growing GMO crops in a contained environment such as a greenhouse for research purposes will still be allowed; this way the crops cannot escape into the environment and contaminate natural crops as they have elsewhere.
Protecting Scotland’s “Beautiful Natural Environment”
Lochhead said that Scotland is known around the world for its “beautiful natural environment” and banning the crops would help to accentuate its “clean, green status” according to a report by the BBC.
“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,” he said.
Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone reportedly welcomed the announcement by Lochhead. The National Farmers Union reportedly disagreed with the stance, however.
While Britain is planning to allow GMO corn and canola (rapeseed) soon, Lochhead believes more independent research is necessary and the precautionary principle should be followed before GMO crops are allowed to spread uncontrollably in the wild.
In the United States, organic farmers are forced to grow other crops or to pay thousands simply to prevent GMOs from contaminating them. In Europe, clean, natural and non-GMO food is strongly favored and the protest movement against GMOs is oftentimes described as overwhelming.
“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,” he concluded.