Scotland’s fiercely anti-GM government has had to admit that crops of contaminated oilseed rape were mistakenly sown on farms in Aberdeenshire and Angus this autumn. The crops are due to be destroyed.

The seed of a new unnamed conventional variety believed to be from the United States was found to contain small amounts of unauthorised GM material. The same sample was also due to be sown at national list trial sites in England but the entire batch has now been sent to the National Institute of Agricultural Botany’s (NIAB) Seed Handling Unit for destruction.

The Scottish government’s environment minister Michael Russell claimed that had the plants been allowed to mature, the risk to the environment could have been “very serious”.

“This further emphasises the need for rigorous controls on GM material and for Scotland to remain a GM crop-free zone,” the Minister added.

However, NFU Scotland took the opportunity to call for a “sensible and scientifically based” discussion on the role of biotechnology in agriculture.