The RSE’s report is largely positive about GM food and states that “there is no clear evidence that the scientific process of genetic manipulation of plants is a hazard to human health”. Despite the positive tone, the RSE acknowledges that “widespread public concern” means that caution in the face of uncertainty is necessary.

The RSE also calls on the Scottish Parliament to develop its own policies on GM foods – keeping in mind the need for adequate co-ordination on a UK-wide level. This aspect of the report has received praise from Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland. “The Society has recognised that the issue of GM is clearly a devolved issue for the Scottish Parliament,” says FoE Scotland. “Unfortunately, unlike the Society, the Parliament has yet to wake up to this fact.”

FoE Scotland asked the Scottish Parliament in December 1999 to use its powers “to ensure that it will not permit the release of GM crops into the Scottish environment unless it can be proven to be safe for the environment and human health”. The Parliament has delayed taking a decision in order to seek legal advice and begin a debate on the issue.

With the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) meeting next week in Edinburgh to discuss GM food safety (see related story), both the RSE and FoE Scotland are hoping that the international conference will kick-start a domestic debate.

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