AN SNP minister has accused a Scottish Tory MSP of “trying to patronise and belittle” her after the two clashed on genetic modification.

The exchange came after Stephen Kerr, the Scots Conservatives’ chief whip, claimed that Màiri McAllan, the SNP’s environment minister, was “confused” about the difference between gene editing and genetic modification (GM).

McAllan had previously been asked a question by Tory MSP Russell Findlay about gene editing, and mentioned “GM” in her response.

Under EU and Scottish law, gene editing (GE) is considered a form of GM.

READ MORE: Scotland may be 'forced' to sell GM food as England looks to post-Brexit law change

After suggesting McAllan was “confused”, Kerr said: “Will the minister please take the time to understand the difference between GMOs and gene editing.

“Scotland’s farmers can see potential benefits in gene editing, why can’t the Scottish Government?”

McAllan hit back, accusing the Tory MSP of attempting to “patronise and belittle” her.

“The member needn’t try to patronise, or belittle, or outsmart me because he will not succeed.”

This was greeted with applause.

She went on: “I am following very closely both scientific and judicial reasoning about the decoupling of GM and gene editing.”

The current rules in Scotland align with the EU law, which classifies gene editing as a form of genetic modification. Neither are allowed.

READ MORE: Tories 'governing by diktat' aim to drop laws around genetically modified plants

However, since Brexit, the UK Government has sought to decouple the two and legalise gene editing. The Tories claim that gene-edited foods are things “which could have occurred naturally or been produced by traditional breeding” – but campaigners have called this a “mythical subset” with no clearly defined boundaries.

If the UK Government were to legalise such organisms, only farmers in England would be able to use the technology on their crops and animals.

However, the non-discrimination clause in the Internal Market Act means that devolved governments would be powerless to block the genetically edited foodstuffs from being sold in their jurisdictions.

There are also fears on the continent that, through a backdoor in Northern Ireland, such genetically edited foods could enter the European market.