Scotland is hardening its stance against genetically modified crops, saying its people don’t want them, and that its food and drink industry is at risk otherwise from consumers who distrust the technology.
But England, which shares a long land border with Scotland (and presumably also shares the insects that pollinate plants), has said it’s willing to countenance GM crops, though they aren’t currently grown there.
The decision from the Scottish government is the latest indication that the country is determined to continue carving out its own path, diverging from that of its neighbors.
Powers over agriculture and other legislative areas began to be devolved to a Scottish parliament as far back as 1998. But recently the country has gained more sway in the United Kingdom as a whole, following last year’s close (but failed) referendum on Scottish independence, and the May general election, which gave the pro-independence Scottish National Party the third-largest contingent of MPs in parliament.
The UK already imports products made with GM crops, including human and animal foods. New rules brought in by the European Union earlier this year allow individual countries to opt out of planting crops that are authorized by the bloc as a whole. This currently includes one variety of maize and six other crops awaiting authorization.
“Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment,” said Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s rural affairs secretary, in a press release. He said that banning the growth of GM crops would protect a “clean, green status” that contributed to the success of the country’s £14 billion food and drink industry. Produce from Scottish crops, including whiskey, is exported all over the world.