Well, it was no great surprise when the UK Government last week signalled its intentions to push ahead with proposals to green light the commercial growing of gene edited crops when it announced it was set to make a whole host of changes to the country’s regulatory system.

With the news slipped out quietly as part of a wider promise to review a whole list of regulations which had been simply cut and pasted from the EU in the rush to get Brexit done, Westminster was doing its best to convince the nation that something good might come out of leaving the EU after all – claiming that the changes being proposed would allow everyone to ‘capitalise on a whole range of new freedoms’.

Read more: Brian Henderson: Edited harvest highlights and a GM future

Now, while they didn’t actually mention that one of these freedoms might well include a massive simplification of supermarket shopping, such an outcome certainly looks likely as we’ll have less to choose from on the shelves.

However, amongst the headline issues which were actually mentioned, it was claimed that Artificial Intelligence would ‘supercharge’ its place in the UK economy – presumably to make up for the total lack of the normal variety – while changes to transport regulation would ‘unleash the UK’s potential as a world leader in future technologies’. Just how allowing a host of untrained drivers to take to the road with caravans and trailers without any training and simplifying HGV tests would do that wasn’t actually spelt out.

But, for once, agriculture got its own mention in the announcement – with Westminster highlighting: “Farming – to reform the regulations around gene-edited organisms, which will enable more sustainable and efficient farming and help produce healthier and more nutritious food.”

Read more: Brian Henderson: Challenging the chill winds of climate change

Now I mentioned in my last column that gene editing has been getting the hard-sell of late and was being pushed as the way towards nutritionally healthier crop varieties with better disease resistance, reduced insecticide and fungicide use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved climate resilience – while at the same time contributing to sustainability and biodiversity conservation.

And, taking a step back in time, there was no doubting the fact that many scientists were hugely disappointed when the EU regulations on gene editing effectively stymied the commercial growing of crops which had been developed in this way as it put the kybosh on a major new tool to speed up the development of varieties with improved production and sustainability credentials.

The Court of Justice’s 2018 ruling that gene edited crops would come under the same strict controls as were applied to genetically modified crops was felt by many to be overly restrictive – and it was pointed out that existing genes were merely being tweaked rather than foreign DNA being introduced to such organisms and, at the end of the day, using such techniques to produce new crops produced merely speeded up results which could be achieved by normal breeding techniques.

In recent weeks, though, several reports have been released in the UK emphasising the potential of gene edited crops to contribute to farming sustainability, offering more resilient and disease resistant crops which required fewer pesticides and less fertiliser – and which would help address climate change issues.

However, whatever your views are on the use of such technologies, there’s one small fly in the ointment about Defra heading down that road – and that is the fact that the Scottish Government is likely to take different view on the issue, a fact which might make life more than a little difficult for Scottish producers. For it raises the very real possibility of the growing of gene edited crops being allowed in England – but banned in Scotland.

And not only would this be likely to create horrendous issues for the cross-border trade in farm produce, but it could also well deny Scotland’s farmers the opportunity to benefit from new varieties which could address some of the many agronomic problems which we currently face.

So I found myself wondering that, even with the Green Party on board, the Scottish Government might therefore have a hard time dismissing new breeding techniques when the nation has been carpet bombed with those veritable squadrons of reports extolling the environmental and sustainability benefits which could be harnessed from gene edited crops.

But whether it’s because they simply haven’t read any of those reports or it’s due to the administration’s dogged determination to stick as closely as it possibly can to the existing EU regulatory regime, there appears to be no change in their view on the commercial use of the technology.

But when I contacted the Scottish Government for a comment on Westminster’s planned review of the regulations, the response from the Minister for Environment and Land Reform Màiri McAllan showed that despite the green glow surrounding the technology, the traffic lights on this side of the border still seemed to be stuck on red: “Scotland’s policy towards GMOs has not changed, and we have no plans for a similar review. We will press Defra for early sight of their plans to ensure there is no risk of GMOs being released in Scotland.

“As for gene-editing, we are disappointed Defra would choose to move unilaterally on this, and we are yet to understand the full impacts of such a move. The Scottish Government is committed to keeping aligned with the EU, and we are monitoring the EU’s position closely.”

So, no sign of the lights changing there.

Interestingly enough, though, the announcement came as a new survey on the attitudes of UK consumers to farming issues claimed to have found that 62% of the Scots surveyed agreed that farmers should be able to benefit from the innovations that could help the industry play its full role in tackling the climate crisis.

The YouGov survey also found that 70% of people living in Scotland were worried about the fact Britain relied on imports for almost half of its food supply, with 88% wanting to eat more local produce as awareness of sustainability issues and greenhouse gas emissions grows.

And 84% of Scots also wanted to see improved education around food’s journey from farm to fork, and believed that children should learn how food was grown and produced so that they left school with an understanding of the health and sustainability implications of farming.

The findings also claimed that, against the backdrop of increasing worries about food security, only 20% backed focusing on organic farming.

However, it is worth pointing out that the report was commissioned by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, a ‘sciency’ enough sounding organisation, you might agree. But it is actually an umbrella group representing four of the country’s largest agro-chemical and breeding technology corporations, BASF, Bayer, Corteva and Syngenta – and while 2000 adults were surveyed from across the UK, this included 181 from Scotland.

So while I’m sure the survey was as accurate as many which are conducted, the cynics amongst us often think it is always worth finding out who commissioned the work and perhaps ask why.

But that apart, without at least a hint of amber from the Scottish government on the issue, the development of new varieties for growers on this side of the border could be stalled at the lights for some time to come.