AS Pat Thomas has written: “On the first day of his premiership, Boris Johnson vowed to ‘liberate’ genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in farming and food from stuffy EU regulations. The declaration was a little vague on details but was widely viewed as a Brexit win; a very public display of how different modern Britain’s goals and aspirations are from those of the stuffy old EU.”

As we enter a multi-dimensional food crisis the reality is very different; a bonfire of food regulations and a direct attack on the basic tenets of devolution.

Last week the UK Government introduced its Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, which it says will “remove unnecessary barriers to research into new gene editing technology”, one of the great benefits of Brexit it claimed.

The Scottish Government was “urged” to back the new UK law on gene editing, with environment secretary George Eustice promising it will “tackle the challenges of our age”. Eustice pleaded with the government in Edinburgh to overcome their reluctance and back the relatively new technology. Eustice and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack wrote to the First Minister and Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon “inviting” the Holyrood government to “join us in taking forward this legislation”.

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But the Scottish Government has long had a different policy on genetic modification and have rejected the approach pointing out that this is another example of the way the “Internal Market” is a direct attack on devolution and democracy. The Scottish Government said it “remains wholly opposed to the imposition of the Act and will not accept any constraint on the exercise of devolved powers”, while the Welsh government has insisted it will not comply with Westminster’s interference.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said that it notes that the UK Government is introducing a bill “to amend the definition of a GMO [genetically modified organisms] in England” and that it would not accept having that imposed on Scotland.

“The UK Government’s invitation to participate in the bill comes without them having shared the content with us, and we will therefore need to scrutinise it carefully to consider the implications for Scotland,” the spokesperson said.

Part of this legislation is part of the inevitable deregulation resulting from Brexit. There was even a brief backlash against the plans to sell gene-edited foods unlabelled in UK supermarkets. Even the Daily Mail frothed: “Fury erupted today over Government plans to allow gene-edited foods to be sold unlabelled in British supermarkets – as Scotland and Wales both vowed to reject the move.”

Despite the stated benefits the policy is widely discredited across Europe and opposed by environmental bodies across the UK.

Soil Association policy director Jo Lewis said: “We are deeply disappointed to see the government prioritising unpopular technologies rather than focusing on the real issues – unhealthy diets, a lack of crop diversity, farm animal overcrowding, and the steep decline in beneficial insects who can eat pests.”

The RSPCA are also opposed to the legislation. The charity’s head of public affairs, David Bowles, said the introduction of the bill was “incredibly disheartening and frustrating” from an animal welfare perspective. He said there were “more ethical and humane ways” to solve issues in the farming industry “without pushing farm animals even further towards their physical limits”.

“The animal welfare impact of directly altering an animal’s genetic material can be unpredictable and we simply do not know the long-term consequences.”

This issue of “long-term consequences” is the key for the Scottish Government which has evoked the “precautionary principle”. In 2013 the Scottish Government laid out the following principles which guided their policy:

  • The precautionary principle – insufficient evidence has been presented that GM crops are safe.
  • The preventative principle – the cultivation of GM crops could tarnish Scotland’s natural environment and damage wider aspects of the Scottish economy such as tourism and the production of high quality, natural food
  • The democratic principle – science-based decision making cannot replace the will of the people. There is no evidence of a demand for GM products by Scottish consumers.

The fact that the Scottish Government has put together these sound, well-reasoned principles to guide their opposition gives us real hope that Scotland can be a strong voice against the pro-GM lobby in the years to come. But the very idea of Scotland charting a different path was the cause of apoplexy by many journalists and politicians.

Food standards are not just an issue for obscure policies and technical details, they are the basis for our health and wellbeing they are the basis for our food sovereignty. Without food sovereignty – without control over what our children eat – we are nothing. And this battle lands in a country where there are already massive and growing issues about poverty, health and wellbeing, and in which Scotland in particular faces huge challenges about our dietary health.

In a country in which millions are already reliant on foodbanks, further price rises and disruptions are going to hugely exacerbate inequality.

The reason that protecting food policy is important to Scotland is interesting. On the one hand we have some of the greatest natural resources in food and an image of food that we can project and build on. But the ­

flip-side of that is that we have huge issues about our diet, about our obsession with export growth, about our salmon industry, about our obesity epidemic, about our diet-related ill-health that we desperately need to confront.

On food standards and regulations there’s a feeding frenzy of right-wing think-tanks queuing up to divvy-up your rights to good (or at least nominally safe) food. As the dearth of foreign workers leaves crops rotting in the ground the glee with which policy makers are eyeing-up the potential profits of a free trade agreement is undeniable.

A report by the Soil Association highlighted 10 concerns about food safety in a post-Brexit era. These concerns include: Chlorine-washed chicken (banned in the EU); Hormone-treated beef (banned in the EU); Ractopamine in pork (banned in the EU); Chicken litter as animal feed (banned in the EU). Includes the birds’ faeces; Atrazine-treated crops (banned in the EU). Atrazine is a herbicide used on 90% of sugar cane, which can enter into the water supply and interfere with wildlife; Genetically modified foods (banned in the EU); Brominated vegetable oil (banned in the EU). BVO is used in citrus drinks; Coca-Cola announced it would stop using BVO in 2004; Potassium bromate (banned in the EU). A dough conditioner also banned in China, Brazil and Canada, in tests on rats it has been found to be a possible carcinogen; Azodicarbonamide. A bleaching agent for flour, it has been linked to an increase in tumours in rats; Food colourants (banned in the UK, regulated in the EU). Can lead to hyperactivity in children.

This is your Brexit Recipe Book. This is what your cupboards and your super-market shelves will be brimming with if Britain’s corporate ambition gets its wishes. This is a new era of hunger and food madness.

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BUT if post-Brexit Britain is a disaster for transparency about food and food regulations it’s also a direct attack on devolution.

Eustice last week wrote to the first ministers of Scotland and Wales “inviting them” to adopt the bill’s measures.

Eustice told BBC Scotland last week that if they did not do so, they could still refuse to allow GMO crops to be planted. However, under the current proposals, they would not be allowed to stop GMO products being sold in Scotland or Wales under the terms of the Internal Markets Act.

Preventing people knowing what food they are eating is dystopian and profoundly un-democratic, it is an attack on devolution and an attack on basic human rights to know what you are eating.