Brexit isn’t the only “B word” leading to friction between Scotland and England. New proposals by the UK Government to explore biotechnology could soon spark further tensions.

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Dramatic headlines denouncing “Frankenfoods” have dominated the debate around gene editing for decades, but with the UK now free from the shackles of EU legislation – where the practice is banned – there are plans afoot to explore the possibilities of its introduction in England.

The Scottish Government remains fervently opposed to the practice and with its eyes set firmly on re-joining the EU in the future will endeavour to align with EU principles at all costs.

Genetic editing should not be confused with genetic modification. It only involves removing an undesirable trait from within an organism’s own genome and amounts to no more than a speeding up of gene selection processes that could occur naturally. Genetic modification alters the genetic make-up of a plant, animal or micro-organism by transferring a piece of DNA from one organism to a different organism.

Few have an issue with gene editing when it comes to treating cancer, curing inherited diseases and developing new vaccines – yes, I’m talking about the Covid vaccines – but when it comes to its use in crops and the food chain, many remain unconvinced.

Genetic editing has the potential to provide our farmers with a powerful tool that could remove genes that govern certain traits, such as disease resistance, in order to make crops more resilient to pests and therefore reduce the need for pesticides.

Selecting desirable traits in crops will not only provide a tool to reduce waste and the carbon footprint of our farms, but could aid in the production of healthier, more nutritious and environmentally friendly food. It could help tackle food insecurity, by improving yields and quality – ensuring the UK can increase its food self-sufficiency and rely less on imports and their associated food miles.

Right now, outdoor trials are under way in the UK to grow genetically edited wheat that removes acrylamide – the carcinogen that occurs when bread is toasted. This is just a flavour of the possibilities that embracing plant breeding could offer to public health.

Two years ago, I took part in a media trip to the United States where I was given the opportunity to visit Wisconsin’s Crop Innovation Centre. There, I discovered that farmers and growers across the United States have been benefiting from advances in biotechnology for 40 years.

I heard from scientists that gene editing had led to the development of drought resistant varieties of different crops such as corn and has allowed farmers to move further west into drier areas where previously they couldn’t grow food.

It was very clear in the US that farmers are enduring increasingly challenging weather conditions as a result of climate change and that any benefit to a farmer that can temper crops to withstand droughts or floods is being welcomed with open arms.

Scotland is not numb to such weather challenges, as the past months of undulating weather patterns has shown, and in order to build resilience into our food chains, drought resistant and pest resistant crops could prove to be a lifeline for our nation’s food supply in the years to come.

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Winning the public over might take some time, as the debate on biotechnology has been driven by emotion for many years.

There are some who view gene editing as unnatural or unethical and worry about the unintended consequences which could result down the line, as well as those who rightfully question who will own, control and benefit from the technology. These are all questions that need to be explored by the UK Government when it announces how it looks to take gene editing proposals forward.

Scotland’s hard stance against gene editing is going to be a roadblock in the UK Government’s plan and will lead to friction within the UK single market, if it were to become the case that farmers north of the Border weren’t allowed access to the same innovations as their neighbours. Scottish farmers, many of whom are supporters of gene editing, would be placed at a disadvantage, creating an uneven playing field within the UK.

The SNP is less concerned with internal roadblocks as it is with assuring that its future path to EU membership remains clear, so it will be keeping a watchful eye on the EU, which has been reviewing the practices within recent years.

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It is important to point out that the EU may think that we are none the wiser to the fact that they are importing vast amounts of genetically modified crops from South American and North America to feed their livestock.

So, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that some of the food that we consume isn’t produced with genetically modified crops – it is already in the food chain.

The UK Government, however, believes it has bigger fish to fry than the EU and is more concerned with asserting the UK’s place as a global leader on trade. It expects our farmers to go toe to toe with some of the world’s biggest agricultural exporters – Australia and New Zealand – where we currently don’t stand a chance.

Read moreA blinkered trade agenda is a slap in the face to British farmers

We cannot begin to compete on an even playing field with these agricultural superpowers, who produce on scale, at a cheaper cost, and aren’t weighed down with environmental and animal welfare controls – not to mention the looming prospect of direct subsidies being phased out within the next five years.

But by embracing the potential of gene editing, it could help to close the gaps in efficiency between ourselves and these nations, and build a more sustainable and greener future for

the UK.