The Scottish government will shortly submit a request that the country be excluded from any European consents for the cultivation of genetically modified crops, including the variety of GM maize already approved and six other crops that are awaiting authorisation.

Lochhead said Scotland is known around the world for “our beautiful natural environment – and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status”.

He also said there is no evidence of significant demand for GM products from Scottish consumers. "I am concerned that allowing such crops to be grown would damage the country’s “clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14bn food and drink sector”.

He said he has heard directly from food and drink producers in other countries that are ditching GM because of a consumer backlash.

“That is why I strongly support the continued application of the precautionary principle in relation to GM crops and intend to take full advantage of the flexibility allowed under these new EU rules to ban GM crops from being grown in Scotland,” the secretary said.

Stakeholders, such as Friends of the Earth Scotland, have welcomed the statement. Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “It is very good news that Scottish ministers are taking that stance. It is certainly in Scotland’s interests to keep GM out of Scotland.”

Peter Ritchie, director of the sustainable food campaign Nourish Scotland, also welcomed the move, and warned of the alternative. He said: “GM technology is closely associated with heavy use of glyphosate, a herbicide recently classified as probably carcinogenic.”

However, the statement angered the National Farmers Union in Scotland, which described the decision as naive and taken without an adequate debate. Scott Walker, chief executive of NFU Scotland, said: “Other countries are embracing biotechnology where appropriate and we should be open to doing the same here in Scotland.”

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