Call to Protect Nation’s Reputation on Plant Health

President addresses EU potato conference

NFU Scotland President, Jim McLaren, has called for Scottish growers to preserve the nation’s reputation for healthy potatoes when he addressed delegates from Europe and beyond at the Europatat 2010: ‘Potatoes without Frontiers’ conference, held in Edinburgh today (Friday, 28 May). 

The call was made in light of press reports regarding the discovery of the aggressive Dickeya Solani bacteria, which causes symptoms similar to Blackleg, in a crop near Coupar Angus this week.

Mr McLaren spoke on a number of other issues affecting the potato industry as a whole in Scotland including wastage trends and the role of GM technology.

Mr McLaren said:

“ Without a doubt, the quality of our production is the best card we have to play, and if we lose that we will struggle to perform competitively in the market.  A voluntary industry ban on bringing in seed potatoes from outside Scotland has been in place for some years, and Scottish growers have an excellent record of complying with this.  This has helped us to maintain our recognised high health status – something that we are obviously very keen to keep. 

“This week’s report of a disease breakdown in a potato seed crop is a sharp reminder of what we stand to lose if we do not keep plant health at the top of list of priorities.”

“Potato crops are particularly susceptible to viruses and infestations, and as diseases move north through Europe it is important that we do all we can to prevent these entering Scotland. Potatoes that are brought in to Scotland for planting are inspected on arrival, and again once the crop is growing.  The continuation of this checking process, as well as the voluntary ban, is key if we are to ward off encroachment of diseases in the future.” 

Mr McLaren spent some time in his address looking at the GB potato balance sheet with delegates.  The sheet includes figures on wastage trends; something Mr McLaren was particularly keen to address:

“The balance sheet throws up a few worrying statistics.  It shows that we are poor at adding value through processing and that we rely too heavily on other countries doing it for us.  Furthermore, the level of wastage disposal almost equates to the level of processed imports – a statistic we need to look at carefully, and do something about, as we move forward.”

At the conference, the Union President also addressed the question of the role of GM technology and the definition of “quality” production.  Speaking about the issue he said:

“ ‘Quality’ is subjective. It suggests a product meets or exceeds specification. And what was specified a year ago can be very different from what is required five years in the future.  As a low carbon footprint becomes a quality specification, met by getting higher yields from the same or less inputs, we will need to respond to that consumer demand. 

“It may be that GM technology will offer the best means of achieving that quality.  Therefore we need to support research institutes, such as the Scottish Crop Research Insititute in Dundee, in this field.  By encouraging technological advances here in Scotland, we will avoid having to buy in products and technology from elsewhere.  This can only be a good thing for Scotland.”


  1. Mr McLaren is speaking at the Europatat congress 2010, which is running from 27-29 May in Edinburgh.
  2. More information regarding the conference can be found at
  3. Scotland is currently free from diseases such as Ring Rot, Brown Rot and Dickeya Solani, which are found in other potato growing countries. 
  4. The Scottish Government inspects seed potato imports into Scotland.
  5. The voluntary ban encourages Scottish potato growers to source their seed in Scotland. 


Contact Wendy Fleming on 0131 472 4020






Date Published:

News Article No.: 83/10

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