A leading SNP politician has broken ranks with the Scottish Government by advocating the adoption of GM technology to boost food production globally.

Scottish PM, Pete Wishart, whose constituency includes the Scottish Crop Research Institute, told a potato conference in Dundee that complacency about food security had to be a thing of the past. “The debate so far has been appalling with tabloid talk of Frankenstein foods and so on,” said Mr Wishart.

“We need a proper debate on this. It is imperative that we do the research and this has to be in the public sector – not in the private sector where dividends to shareholders are more important. Scotland should not be left behind.”

GM Crops

Mr Wishart said he would support GM field trials as an extension of research work. The SNP Government’s implacable opposition to GM, an election manifesto commitment, has recently been reiterated by both First Minister, Alex Salmond, and Rural Affairs Minister, Richard Lochhead, who fear GM will damage Scotland’s green image in the global food market. “We have a very clear vision of Scotland’s future based on clean, green, quality food produced in Scotland,” Mr Salmond said at the Royal Highland Show.

“The problem with GM is that it cuts right across that image and positioning we have for Scottish food and Scottish farming. We would introduce GM at our peril.”But Mr Wishart said it was time to look again at biotechnology and research.

He said: “The number of people in the world with an inadequate diet is increasing by 100 million a year. I have visited African countries where the land suffers from a monoculture system and children are surviving on one plate of maize porridge a day.”

Mr Wishart’s comments mirror a similar call from UK Environment Minister, Phil Woolas.NFU Scotland president, Jim McLaren, has been stepping up the pressure on the Scottish Government to open up a debate on GM and to sanction research into the safe development of GM crops.

“The public perception is against GM but in 10 years’ time we could be in a world where GM crops are being grown, chemical applications are less and varieties are disease and drought resistant,” said Mr McLaren.

“What will happen if Scotland is caught in the past using crops that require substantial chemical usage.”