FARMING leaders believe there could be a case for genetically modified (GM) crops to be grown in Scotland after world-leading scientists said they were safe to use.

A study by the American National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine which examined more than 900 pieces of research found that GM pose no danger when eaten and could even be beneficial to the environment.

GM foods were banned by the Scottish Government last year, despite critics including opposition parties, farmers’ unions and the Royal Society of Edinburgh claiming that the move was ‘anti-science’, with ministers saying they wanted to protect Scotland's food and drink industry.

However, the US government advisory body, which counts more than 300 Nobel laureates as members, said its committee found there was no evidence to suggest genetically engineered foods had adverse effects.

Following publication of the report, a spokesman for the National Farmers' Union in Scotland said: "Our view is that we always want policy in this area to be science-led rather than led by rhetoric. We believe there might be a place for such technology on Scottish farms.

"But as things stand we cannot even conduct field trials because of the ban which is in place, even though we have world-leading research institutes which are well-placed to examine this type of technology and establish if it has a role in Scottish food or farming."

He added: "To be perfectly honest, if we look at the technology currently available most of it concerns crops such as maize and soya, which are not crops grown in Scotland.

"But that's not to say there might not be technologies developed in the future which could be of benefit to both health and the environment.

"I think that Scottish farmers would back any technology and see what it has to offer. But it is also a consumer-led industry and farmers would keep an eye whether there was significant public resistance to this type of food."

A spokesman for the National Academies said: "While recognising the inherent difficulty of detecting subtle or long-term effects on health or the environment, the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops."

He added that "new technologies in genetic engineering and conventional breeding are blurring the once clear distinctions between these two crop-improvement approaches".

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland has a global reputation for naturally high quality food and drink which often attracts a premium price. Allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland could damage our clean and green brand and our £14bn food and drink sector.”