MSP tells Scottish Parliament: 'I am not a potato'

Stephen Kerr MSP saw the funny side of a social media gaffe ahead of a debate on genetically-edited food.

An MSP has reassured his parliamentary colleagues he is “not a potato” at the opening of members business at Holyrood.

Tory regional representative Stephen Kerr was reacting to a Tweet sent from the Scottish Parliament’s Twitter account which appeared to suggest he was a “potato with more vitamin C than a lemon”.

In reality, the Central Scotland MSP was introducing a debate on genetically-edited food following research from the James Hutton Institute in Dundee – which suggested new technology could result in a version of the root vegetable being created with additional nutritional properties.

Current Scottish legislation – originally introduced by the European Union – prohibits the use of gene-editing in food production, which Kerr claimed exposed the country to being “left behind by England”.

However, he chose to open the debate by assuaging worries that he may transform into the vegetable at any moment.

“Here’s something I never thought I’d have to say in the Scottish Parliament,” he told MSPs in the chamber.

“But contrary to the Scottish Parliament’s Twitter account, I can confirm I am not a potato.”

Kerr had previously joked he had “been called worse” on social media.

The debate was held following the introduction of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill at Westminster in June.

The post-Brexit legislation would allow for genetically-edited foods to be manufactured and sold across the UK without being labelled.

An EU ruling in 2018 regulated the practice in the same category as “genetic modification” but Kerr argued that this was not the case and that editing made “small, specific changes to existing DNA,” or “removed a section altogether, speeding up a process that could occur through natural breeding”.

Scientists at the Hutton Institute are trialling the sale of a new, harder-wearing variety of the potato, known as the Lady Jane, which would be able to stand up to the warming climate – while “retaining the qualities needed for good chips”.

Scottish Government environment minister Mairi McAllan previously said Scotland would not make the same changes as England if the bill passed.

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