GM crops and Brexit

Call for Scotland’s opt-out on GM crops to be protected.

Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Government to seek assurances that it will not impose cultivation of GM crops against Scotland’s will.


In his letter to the UK’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, Mr Ewing seeks confirmation that current EU opt-out provisions on the cultivation of genetically modified crops, which have allowed Scotland to adopt its GM-crop free approach, will continue following Brexit.


 Mr Ewing’s letter said:


“I’m sure you are aware that, after many years of difficult negotiation, EU law now contains important provisions that allow Scotland to opt out of cultivating EU approved genetically modified (GM) crops.  This provision is extremely important for Scotland.  The commercial success of our food and drink industry is built on Scotland’s reputation for quality, provenance and the natural larder which we are fortunate to have.


“In your speech to the WWF you talk about a “Green Brexit” and say that you have “no intention of weakening the environmental protections we have put in place while in the European Union”.  I was also heartened to hear you say recently, in relation to a possible future trade deal with the US, that lowering environmental or agricultural standards would be a deal breaker. 


“However, you included a number of caveats in your WWF speech.  While it did not mention GM specifically, it is these caveats and the amount of emphasis you place on science as being at the root of environmental policy, as opposed to evidence, that concern me.  Science is indeed an important driver of innovation in delivering agricultural and environmental outcomes, and the Scottish Government is committed to scientific research in Scotland.  However, there are many types of evidence, of which science is one, that are important to consider in any policy development, for example socio-economic evidence.


“With this and the lack of any reference to GM policy in the Conservative manifesto in mind, I ask you to confirm that the GM opt out provisions will continue to exist post-Brexit and that the UK government will not attempt to impose the cultivation of GM crops on Scotland against our will.  At the same time, it is vital that the labelling of GM food and feed products is not weakened so that consumers can exercise choice.


“What this highlights is that when the UK leaves the European Union, and EU competencies are repatriated, it is vital that competence for agriculture and environmental policy, including approaches on GM, transfer to Scotland.”


Media enquiries

Back to top