Richard Lochhead has just defended the governments position to ban growing of GM crops here in Scotland, and I am currently in favour of that position. It may come as a surprise to some that a farmer is opposed to a science that we are told will bring massive benefits to our industry, but quite simply, I have yet to be convinced.
I am not opposed to genetic modification because as farmers and agrarians we have been doing that for generations. We grow our livestock, crops, fruits and everything else through selective breeding to try and maximise particular traits that we wish to encourage. For hill sheep the ability to live in the most extreme conditions, survive the winter and still produce a viable lamb in the spring is what we aim for. The low ground farmers aim for maximum conformation and fast growing lambs while the beef boys want a growthy calf out of a minimum input cow. Each individual business has its own unique requirement and we breed accordingly.
The plant growers are the same, berries have been crossed and re crossed to produce the finest soft fruit in the world, but by using natural selective breeding programmes.
Where I disagree with GM is when it becomes Genetic Engineering, when science takes two different species,combines them in a lab and then releases the results into our environment. Not because I am opposed to scientific progression, but because right now we don’t know enough about the long term impact these GE crops will have on human health or the environment.
I am suspicious of a product that cannot self reproduce; it’s a bit like being reliant on mules to do your work but you can’t buy horses or donkeys to breed your own. You are at the mercy of a multi national company where instant profit is the single driving factor, and that’s never a good thing.
I am in no doubt that science will progress, it always does, but in the meantime the Scottish government are taking the correct, cautious decision for our protection as farmers and as consumers and as a country with one of the best world wide reputations for the quality and cleanliness of our food and environment. Until it is proven that none of these is any danger, I for one fully support the SNP decision to ban GE crops.
Jim Fairlie was not brought up in farming, he chose this as his career and lifestyle. Brought up in a political household he only became active in his own right during the referendum campaign. He was co-founder of farming for Yes.