By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 11, 2015
© Norma Jean Gargasz / Alamy

Scotland is known for its rolling green hills, and they want to keep that nature as natural as possible.

Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, recently announced his country’s plans to opt out of European Union–wide consents for genetically modified crops, a move that, according to The Guardian, upholds Scotland’s long-standing moratorium against these types of crops and effectively bans GMOs.

“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 proclaimed to the Press Association, while also stressing he didn’t want to “gamble with the future of our £14 billion food and drink sector.”

The decision is allowed under EU rules thanks to a recent amendment that allows governments to restrict or ban GMOs as they see fit, but it has still been met with controversy.

The BBC quoted Huw Jones, a professor of molecular genetics at agricultural science group Rothamsted Research, as saying the announcement marked a “sad day for science and a sad day for Scotland.” Meanwhile, Murdo Fraser of the Scottish Conservatives delved into more details, stating, “There are two specific issues here for Scotland: if the rest of the UK moves to encourage GM foods and Scotland doesn’t, our farmers will be at a competitive disadvantage, and secondly, a lot of our research institutes which are keen to pursue this technology will lose talent.”

Despite the debate, one thing is certainly true: In the battle over GMOs, Scotland has become a major voice.