LONDON (Reuters) - Scotland's devolved government said on Sunday it intended to ban the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops on its territory to protect its "clean and green brand" and because there was little evidence that Scottish consumers wanted GM products.
Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops have divided opinion in Europe, with some green groups saying they are worried about their environmental impact. They have also questioned whether they are healthy for humans. Producers say research shows the crops are safe.
Richard Lochhead, the Scottish government's minister for the environment, food and rural affairs, said on Sunday he planned to take advantage of new European Union rules allowing countries to opt out of growing EU-authorized GM crops.
"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," Lochhead said in a statement.
"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 14 billion-pound ($22 billion) food and drink sector."
Lochhead, a member of the Scottish National Party, said he had informed the British government, from which Scotland enjoys a large degree of autonomy, of the policy decision.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Digby Lidstone)