Scotland is to ban the growing of genetically modified crops, the country’s rural affairs secretary has announced.
Richard Lochhead said the Scottish government was not prepared to “gamble” with the future of the country’s £14bn food and drink sector.
He is to request that Scotland be excluded from any European consents for the cultivation of GM crops.
But farming leaders said they were disappointed by the move.
Under EU rules, GM crops must be formally authorised before they can be cultivated.
An amendment came into force earlier this year which allows member states and devolved administrations to restrict or ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms within their territory.
Lochhead said Scotland’s request for opt-outs from GM crop consent would cover an EU approved variety of genetically modified maize and six other GM crops that are awaiting authorisation.
He said that Scotland was known around the world for its “beautiful natural environment” and banning the growing of genetically modified crops would protect and further enhance its “clean, green status”.
Lochhead added: “There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14bn food and drink sector.
“Scottish food and drink is valued at home and abroad for its natural, high quality which often attracts a premium price, and I have heard directly from food and drink producers in other countries that are ditching GM because of a consumer backlash.”
The announcement was welcomed by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who agreed that the cultivation of GM crops would harm the country’s environment and reputation for high quality food and drink.
But she called on ministers to go further by challenging big retailers to improve their labelling to show whether meat, eggs and dairy products come from animals fed on GM feed.
The move has also been broadly welcomed by environment groups.
But Scott Walker, chief executive of farming union NFU Scotland, said he was disappointed that the Scottish government had decided that no GM crops should ever be grown in Scotland.
“Other countries are embracing biotechnology where appropriate and we should be open to doing the same here in Scotland,” he said.
“These crops could have a role in shaping sustainable agriculture at some point and at the same time protecting the environment which we all cherish in Scotland.”
Huw Jones, professor of molecular genetics at agricultural science group Rothamsted Research, said the announcement was a “sad day for science and a sad day for Scotland.
He said that GM crops approved by the EU were “safe for humans, animals and the environment”.