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25 June 2002
Prince Charles Attacks GM Crops Again

17 May 2002
A national debate on Genetically Modified crops can only be conducted if the Government calls a halt to the current farmscale evaluation programme. Highland Councillors say the polarisation of the debate has created a "poisonous atmosphere" and only by cancelling the current trial programme can the Government ensure that a national debate can proceed in a constructive way.

Councillors believe that the independent organisation, the Agriculture Environment and Biotechnology Commission, who have visited the Highlands on a fact-finding mission, should provide the framework for the debate. The AEBC say further data must be gathered and a full public debate should take place before commercial GM crop growing can be considered.

Members of the Councils Land and Environment Select Committee also agreed today (Thursday) to ask the Scottish Executive to meet the additional costs incurred by Northern Constabulary in monitoring the Munlochy site, where there have been a number of protests and arrests following attempts to destroy the rape seed crops.  And they instructed officials to examine the Councils investment portfolio to ensure the Council was not investing in GM companies. Vice-Chairman of the Planning Europe Development and Tourism Committee, Gavin Scott Moncrieff, said: "The Council has consistently argued that there is insufficient information available to the public on the GM issue to allow the trials to take place.  "There is no doubt our position is hardening and we firmly believe that there should be a lengthy moritorium on the trials programme to allow for a considered national debate on GM technology."

He said it would have been just as valid for Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie to have adopted a precautionary approach to GM technology , such as that taken by other European countries, such as Wales and Belgium. There was no reason why Mr Finnie should not now abandon the trials.

Councillor David Alston, Black Isle North, who has taken a close interest in the issue, said: "This debate should have taken place five or ten years ago and certainly long before the farmscale evaluation programme was allowed to proceed. We have to remember that this is an irreversible technology so we have got to get it right. "We cannot have this debate while there is this poisonous atmosphere, which has been created by the way the Executive has gone about this process of inflicting the trials on us, without information or consultation.
"We could learn much from other European countries, such as Belgium, in adopting a cautious approach."

6 May 2002

About 1830 hrs. on Monday 6th. May, 2002, a protest was staged at Tullich Farm, Munlochy, the site of the GM oil-sed rape trial.  Police attended and found approximately one hundred people on the roadway near the GM vigil. A number of people were also in the field together with a Landrover, which was being used to destroy the crop.
Three men, aged 20, 43 and 44 werte arrested in connection with the incident and are presently being held in custody at Dingwall Police Station pending court appearance at Dingwall Sheriff Court on Tuesday 7th. May 2002.  During the protest a number of vehicles were used to block the road in and around the crop site. Northern Constabulary totally condems this illegal and irresponsible action which had potentially serious consequences in the event of an emergency situation occurring in the wider area.

1 May 2002

The Highland Council has moved quickly to distance itself from the comments made by Councillor Michael Foxley in support of the recent direct action taken against the Genetically Modified crop trials at Munlochy.

A spokesman said: "The comments made by Councillor Foxley are his personal views and do not reflect the policy of the council on this issue. We do not endorse criminal acts and therefore distance ourselves as a council from his statement.

"The Council wishes to see a halt to the current farmscale trials at Munlochy, but wishes to achieve this through the democratic process, by persuading the Scottish Executive of the merits of this action."

Earlier in the week, Council Convener David Green called on Ross Finnie, Scottish Rural Affairs Minister, to use his powers under the Environmental Protection Act (1990) and bring the experiment at Munlochy to an end.

He said Mr Finnie should place a moratorium on further research until a lot more is known about GM technology. He was particularly concerned at the recent doubt placed on the scientific research carried out by Governmentís watchdogs, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

30 April 2002

The Highland Council Convener David Green says the arguments for halting the controversial Genetically Modified crop trials at Munlochy on the Black Isle are becoming "overwhelming".

Councillor Green has called on Ross Finnie, Scottish Rural Affairs Minister, to use his powers under the Environmental Protection Act (1990) and bring the experiment to an end because of the lack of independent scientific research into the risks of GM technology.

He said: "This is the latest in a succession of compelling reasons why the Minister must end the trials. Initially, the concern was that the Executive did not adequately inform or consult with the local community about the issues.

"This was compounded by the Executive failing to fully take on board the independent advice of the Agriculture Environment and Biotechnology Commission, that further data must be gathered and a full public debate take place before commercial GM crop growing can be considered, and now there is this further concern expressed at the scientific research carried out by the Governmentís watchdogs, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

"It all adds up to a compelling argument why Mr Finnie should conclude that there is enough uncertainty to halt the trial and place a moratorium on further research until a lot more is known about this technology."

He noted that the Minister has also failed to heed the views of his own political party, the Liberal Democrats, who say the trials should end.

Councillor David Alston, Black Isle North, who has taken a close interest in the trials, said: "Mr Finnie claims that his hands are tied because there is no scientific evidence that the trials pose any threat to health or to the environment. The Government rely on advice from ACRE (Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment) but it has now emerged that safety tests on genetically modified maize currently growing in Britain were flawed.

"ACRE's chairman Lord Alan Gray has admitted he believes the research should have been re-analysed and that safety tests were not good enough to give a true picture of the risks involved. The value of ACREís advice and the methods they use must be re-assessed.

"Only if adequate research has been completed can we be confident that there are no risks. It is rather like crossing a busy road. If you havenít looked to see what traffic is coming then the fact that you have seen no danger is not good evidence that it is safe. The public should only be reassured if it is clear that enough research has been done and properly evaluated."

The Highland Council has agreed a five-pronged policy position concerning Genetically Modified Crops and their trials which calls on the Scottish Executive to: -

Support the recommendations of the Agriculture Environment and Biotechnology Commission that further data must be gathered and a full public debate take place before commercial GM crop growing can be considered;

Place a moratorium on farmscale evaluations until the flaws in the trials, identified by the AEBC, have been corrected;

Halt and revoke the present trial at Munlochy until full environmental and safety information on the use of glufosinate ammonium herbicide has been placed in the public domainí

Initiate a wider discussion of ethical and socio-economic concerns and consider strategic and economic factors before taking future decisions; and

Initiate a wider debate about what kind of agriculture people in the United Kingdom, especially in the Highlands, want and how it can be achieved.

Update 29 April 2.00pm
Those arrested had sentence defered for 6 months  at Dingwall sheriff Court this morning

29 April 2002
Highland Eco Warriors Attack Munclochy GM Crop For third Time

A group of five GM Crop protestors have been arrested after damaging the crops on trial at Roskill Farm Munlochy on the Black Isle.  Five people will appear today at Dingwall Sheriff court following alleged damage to the
GM crop presently growing at Munlochy, overnight Friday 26th/ Saturday 27th The people who have not as yet been named are a 31 year old man, 21 year old man, 46 year old female, 40 year old male and a 47 year old female.  The damaged area is still being assessed

The latest strike came less than 24 hours after five demonstrators were arrested on vandalism charges during an alleged breach of the peace at the same trial site.   Protest groups say they have now destroyed half the crop.

Highland Council have not been happy about these crop trials in there area going ahead but have been powerless to stop them.  Earlier reports showed their attitude to the crop trials - -

What Highland Council Said Earlier - -

Three senior Highland Councillors told a Government agency today (Monday) that an urgent review must be made of the way applications for Genetically Modified crop trials are considered.

They gave their views to a sub group of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, the Governmentís strategic advisory body of biotechnology issues affecting agriculture and the environment, who are making a case study of the field trials of GM crops at Munlochy, near Inverness. They are also looking at the ethical, social and environmental issues surrounding GM technology.

Convener David Green, who invited the group to the Highlands to examine the Munlochy trials, highlighted the Councilís serious concerns about the lack of political scrutiny and absence of local consultation by the Scottish Executive before approving the trials at Roskill Farm, Munlochy, in August of last year.

He said: "The present system for approvals by-passes local democracy and raises levels of concern in local communities. Local people are understandably concerned over the impacts such trials will have on the actual and perceived quality of the environment and produce from the area, with knock-on impacts for the local economy and community. To date, the Council is not convinced that adequate monitoring of Environmental Impacts exists. It is not therefore in any position to reassure local communities.

"The Council is democratically elected and is pledged to openness and fairness. We expect the same from the Scottish Executive in a subject as important as GM Crop trials. The public is concerned about these issues and look to the Council to help them gain a better understanding of the issues and help ensure that those with the information and decision making powers inform and consult appropriately. We believe the GM issue is of immense concern to the people of the Highlands Ė not least because of our exceptional environment. We believe the people of the Highlands must be fully consulted on GM issues and that monitoring of any trials must be robust and open to scrutiny."

Councillor Michael Foxley, Chairman of the Councilís Land and Environment Committee, echoed the Convenerís views on the importance to the Highland economy of the environment, as well as crofting and farming.

He said: "The Highland Council is extremely concerned that the process of determining, approving, monitoring, evaluating and providing feedback on GM field trials is fundamentally flawed and that public confidence is being steadily eroded by the lack of transparency and local consultation on all matters relating to these trials.

"The Highland Council and the local community have been treated extremely shabbily by the Scottish Executive. In my own personal view, the trial at Munlochy should be terminated and the crops removed."

He said the Land and Environment Select Committee would take evidence on Wednesday before forming policy on the subject.

Local Councillor Dr David Alston said he hoped the evidence given by interested parties in the Highlands would influence future Government policy on the consultation process leading to approval of GM crop trial sites and the process of monitoring and evaluating these trials and how the results are fed back to local communities. 

Specifically with regard to farm-scale evaluations the Council believed the following should be considered:

  • Advance information and ability to comment on proposed sites.
  • Acceptance that as well as an interest in farm-scale trials farmers clearly have specific interests related to the development of on-farm business opportunities and downstream food processing.
  • End product consumers clearly have an interest in terms of personal preferences and unresolved issues relating to the safety of GM foods and crops.
  • Labelling regulations must be amended to cover for GM concerns. The adequacy of existing regulations has been questioned given the difficulty of determining the source of many ingredients.

Many residents in rural communities are also clearly concerned given their physical proximity to trial sites.

In considering any future application for a GM crop trial, the Scottish Executive needed to consult fully with local communities via public meetings, clear information and a Freephone Advice Line.



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