Wildlife & Environment

SASA conducts a wide range of activities monitoring wildlife and the environment in support of a raft of legislation.

Its work on aphid monitoring and phenology are vital in the management of aphid-borne viral disease in Scottish seed potatoes.

It serves as the GM Inspectorate for Scotland.

It provides analytical and forensic support for the investigation of wildlife crime incidents and it provides advice on wildlife management to the Scottish Government and a wide range of stakeholder bodies.

Aphid Monitoring

The role of aphids as vectors of potato viruses is of concern to the Scottish seed potato industry. SASA operates a national network of suction traps collecting information about aphid abundance and movement, and providing advice on the risk of virus transmission and the need for aphid control.

The suction trap data contribute to a UK network of traps operated by Rothamsted Research. Weekly aphid bulletins are published by the Rothamsted Insect Survey. The data also contribute to EXAMINE - an EU funded project within the Concerted Action Programme, comprising scientists involved in the collection of national data on aphid distribution, phenology and abundance throughout Europe.

The Entomology laboratory provides technical support to the Aphid Monitoring Programme, introduced into the Seed Potato Classification Scheme in 1992. This programme ensures that seed stocks on which aphids have been poorly controlled can be identified, and that subsequent classification of these stocks is dependent upon a post-harvest tuber test for the presence of viruses.

A development programme to improve our understanding of potato virus epidemiology is underway and has improved the accuracy with which virus levels in seed crops can be forecast.

See the Scottish Aphid Bulletins page for more information.

The Potato Council (PCL) funds 100 in-crop water traps in the major seed growing areas of Great Britain. The trap contents are analysed weekly at the Food and Environment Research Agency in York, with results posted on the PCL website. Users of the service can also sign up to receive e-mail and SMS alerts when Peach-potato aphids (Myzus persicae) are found in their region or when aphid catches in any trap in their region exceed a weekly threshold. Comparative information with previous seasons is also available. NB The PCL site is only available to PCL levy payers and corporate members.

Aphid Bulletins



The 'Scottish Aphid Bulletin' consists of a table of 21 species, mostly species of major economic significance, and a second table listing all the other 'non-bulletin' aphids caught during the week.

SASA currently operates three suction traps located at Elgin, Dundee and at SASA's new headquarters at Gogarbank on the west side of Edinburgh. Data from each of these traps are presented as totals for the duration of each report.

Three additional columns of data are also presented under the title of 'Cumulative Totals'. The first presents the total catch from the three traps for the current year, up to and including the period covered by the report. The second column provides the yearly catch of aphids for the equivalent period during the previous year, i.e. 2012. The final column provides the mean cumulative catch of aphids over the same period during the previous 10 years, i.e. 2003-2012. Presenting the data in this way enables the current year's catch of any species to be viewed in the context of data from both the previous year and an average year. As the last column presents an arithmetic mean, this figure is strongly influenced by those years when the total for that particular species of aphid has been high. 

In November 2000, the old Elgin trap stopped operating due to the sale of the site. A new Elgin trap was erected approximately 4 kilometres from the old Elgin site. This trap started collecting aphids on 16 May 2002. The 10-year averages for Elgin now consist entirely of data from the new trap. At the end of 2005, the Edinburgh trap ceased operation at the East Craigs site. It was replaced by the Gogarbank trap located 3 kilometres to the south-west of East Craigs.  Therefore, the Edinburgh data since 2006 come from Gogarbank and data for all previous years come from East Craigs.

Due to time restraints, data from the Ayr trap will not be included in the Scottish aphid bulletin during 2013. The trap continues to run and we hope to be able to identify catches from it in the future if circumstances improve.

SASA is extremely grateful to the organisations where the traps are sited and to the staff who collect the samples. If you require any further information, or wish to use the contents of the Scottish Aphid Bulletins in any way, please contact Jon Pickup.

Aphid Predictions

Early season aphid activity in 2013

Prolonged exposure to low winter temperatures are known to have lethal and sub-lethal effects on populations of aphids that sucoverwinter in the larval stage, such as Scottish populations of M. persicae.  Poor over-winter survival delays the build up of populations of this species in the forthcoming growing season.  Prior to 2011, SASA used the mean temperatures for January and February to predict when M. persicae will become active in the summer.  In recent years, following an extremely cold December 2010, SASA predictions of early season aphid activity have been based on the mean temperatures during the three-month period of December-February.  

During winter 2012-13, the mean temperatures were close to the average over the past 45 or so years (although a little cooler than most recent winters):  3.7°C at SASA (Edinburgh; mean = 3.8°C) and 3.4°C at JHI (Dundee; mean = 3.5°C).  The winter temperatures for 2012-13 rank the 17th coldest over the past 45 years at Edinburgh and 18th coldest over the past 47 years at Dundee. 

Table 1

  2013 Prediction 75% Confidence Limits 2012 Obs'n

2013 Obs'n

Myzus persicae 17 June 26 May - 6 July 25 June
Macrosiphum euphorbiae 25 May 4 May - 14 June 22 May 5 June
Metopolophium dirhodum N/A 24 May 29 May
Myzus periscae 17 June 23 May - 13 July 27 June
Macrosiphum euphorbiae 4 June 12 May - 27 June 23 May 6 May

The 2012-13 winter temperatures suggest that the first flights of M. persicae should be slightly later than average.  In 2012, this species was much later than predicted, probably due to the poor spring and early summer weather.  Environmental conditions in the months following those used for the predictions are likely to have some influence on aphid activity during the summer.  As Metopolophium dirhodum overwinters as an egg, winter temperatures have minimal effect on when this species starts to fly; environmental factors during the weeks prior to flight commencing have a much greater effect. 

The prediction for the total of M. persicae caught by 31 July is 14 at Dundee and 10 at Edinburgh.  The 75% confidence intervals for these predictions are 3 at the lower end and 49 at the upper for Dundee and 2 at the lower end and 39 at the upper for Edinburgh.  Therefore populations of M. persicae are not expected to build up to significant levels during 2013 and seed crops of potato varieties susceptible to leafroll are unlikely to require protection against this aphid during the early part of the 2013 growing season.
View Aphid Predictions for previous years (2004 onwards).

Cereal Aphids

From midsummer onwards, the catches of cereal aphids in the suction traps usually dominate the Scottish aphid bulletin and significantly affect the index that is used to estimate the vector pressure for aphid-transmitted potato viruses. Three species, the Rose-Grain aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum), the Grain aphid (Sitobion avenae) and the Bird Cherry-Oat aphid (Rhopalosiphum padi), are known to be vectors of non-persistently transmitted potato viruses (e.g. PVY) and because they can occur in high numbers in the suction traps, each individual species can make a relatively high contribution to the overall aphid vector pressure index. SASA has recently conducted field trials that support the role of cereal aphids, particularly the Rose-Grain aphid and the Grain aphid, in virus transmission.

As would be expected, cereal aphids are also important pests of cereal crops, causing direct damage by feeding on crops and through the transmission of viruses such as barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV).

Cereal aphids and PVY transmission in 2012

The four dominant species of cereal aphids were particularly scarce in the aphid traps in 2012.  The populations of the Rose-Grain aphid and the Grain aphid, the species most strongly associated with the transmission of Potato Virus Y (PVY) in Scotland, were exceptionally low when compared to the previous 29 years. Therefore, it is anticipated that the incidence of plants showing mosaic symptoms in 2013 will be about 50% lower that observed in the 2012 potato crop.  However, it is recommended that crops are thoroughly rogued at the earliest opportunity to remove as much virus inoculum and to protect the 2013 seed potato crop from infection.

Potato varieties that have been revealed by virus testing of leaf samples collected during classification inspections as particularly prone to the acquisition of PVY include King Edward, Harmony, Shepody, Maris Peer, Nicola.

Cereal aphids in 2013

Please note that the graphs below represent actual numbers of aphids caught in the three east coast Scottish suction traps using a log scale. Viewing population data on a log scale makes it easier to spot subtle changes in numbers when comparing 2013 data to the large number of aphids caught in previous seasons.

Rose-Grain aphid

A total of 769 Rose-Grain aphids (Metopolophium dirhodum) have been caught in Scotland up to 11 August, which is the 22nd highest total to this date over the last 30 years.  45% of this total has been caught in the Elgin trap. Activity of the Rose-Grain aphid has declined over the last two weeks in the Elgin trap and has virtually ceased at Dundee and Edinburgh.

 Rose Grain aphids 2013

Grain aphid

The number of Grain aphids (Sitobion avenae) caught in Scottish suction traps has increased to 2279 by 11 August 2013, with 43% of this total caught at Dundee. Catches are still increasing at Elgin although they are declining at Dundee and Edinburgh.  This species ranks 12th out of the previous 30 years. 

Grain aphids 2013

Bird-Cherry Oat aphid

A total of 2077 Bird-Cherry Oat aphids (Rhopalosiphum padi) have been caught in Scottish suction traps up to 11 August, which ranks 17th out of the last 30 years. 40% of this total have been caught at Dundee.

Bird Cherry Oat aphids 2013

Apple-Grass aphid

A total of 662 Apple-Grass aphids (Rhopalosiphum insertum) have been caught up to 11 August, which ranks 13th out of the last 30 years.  52% of this total has been caught in the Edinburgh trap.

Apple Grass aphids 2013

Peach-Potato Aphid

The Peach-Potato aphid Myzus persicae has traditionally been considered as the most important aphid vector of potato viruses. However in Scotland, Peach-Potato aphids generally fly later and in far lower numbers than in warmer countries and their relative scarcity generally makes this species less of a concern to potato growers.  In some years, usually following a particularly mild winter, Peach-Potato aphids can present a very high risk of virus transmission, particularly Leaf Roll, within the Scottish seed potato crop.

Prolonged exposure to low winter temperatures are known to have lethal and sub-lethal effects on populations of M. persicae which, in Scotland, overwinter in the larval stage.  Poor over-winter survival delays the build up of populations of this species in the forthcoming growing season.  Prior to 2011, SASA has used the mean temperatures for January and February to predict when M. persicae will become active in the summer.  Since 2011, following an extremely cold December 2010, SASA has predicted activity of this aphid using the mean temperatures during the three-month period of December-February. 

During winter 2012-13, the mean temperatures were slightly cooler than the long-term average:  3.7°C at SASA (Edinburgh; mean = 3.8°C) and 3.4°C at JHI (Dundee; mean = 3.5°C).  These winter temperatures for 2012-13 rank the 17th coldest over the past 45 years at Edinburgh and 18th coldest over the past 47 years at Dundee. 

Based on these winter temperatures, predictions indicate that the first flights of M. persicae should occur in mid-June and the total numbers of M. persicae caught by 31 July should be relatively low (see table below). 


 M. persicae Elgin Dundee Edinburgh
First catch in 2013 6 August 7 July 20 July
1st catch prediction 2013 N/A 17 June 17 June
Mean date of first Catch 4 July 15 June 10 June
Catch to 31 July 2013 0 5 2
Predicted catch to 31 July 2013  N/A 14 10
Mean catch to 31 July 13 42 36

The 75% confidence intervals for the predictions for the total number of M. persicae caught by 31 July are are 3 at the lower end and 49 at the upper for Dundee and 2 at the lower end and 39 at the upper for Edinburgh.  Therefore populations of M. persicae are unlikely to build up to significant levels during the early summer of 2013 and seed crops of potato varieties susceptible to leafroll should not require early season protection against this aphid.

Peach Potato aphids in 2013

The first Peach-Potato aphid was caught in Dundee on 7 July, three weeks later than predicted. Two further aphids were caught at the same trap between 7-14 July. The first Peach-Potato aphid was caught in the Edinburgh trap on 20 July, five weeks later than predicted. The first Peach-Potato aphid was caught in the Elgin trap on 6 August..  The total of 11 Peach-Potato aphids caught by 11 August in the Scottish suction traps ranks 27th over the past 30 years.

  Peach Potato aphids in 2013

Potato Aphid

The Potato aphid Macrosiphum euphorbiae is often the most numerous of the five or six species of aphids that regularly colonize potato crops in Scotland. It is also a potential aphid vector of non-persistent potato viruses (e.g. PVY, PVA).

As with Peach-Potato aphids Myzus persicae, predictions made following the 2012-2013 winter indicate that Potato aphid flights ahould be slightly later than in an average year.  Therefore, the number of aphids expected is likely to be slightly lower than normal and the risk of virus transmission to potato crops is not expected to be high. However, environmental conditions over the early summer will influence population development and monitoring of these webpages on a regular basis is recommended.


 M. euphorbiae Elgin Dundee Edinburgh
First catch 2013 3 June 6 May  5 June
First catch prediction 2013 N/A 4 June 25 May
Mean date of first catch 14 June 31 May 22 May
Catch to 31 July 37 84 97
Predicted catch to 31 July 2013 N/A 36 38
Mean catch to 31 July 18 76 58


Potato aphids in 2013

The peak of two weeks ago in the number of Potato aphids has dropped to more average figures over the last two weeks, with a total of 271 Potato aphids have now been caught in Scottish suction traps up to 11 August.  This total ranks 10th  when compared to the totals to the same date over the previous 30 years.  Catches in all three traps are above the mean for this stage of the season.


 Potato aphids in 2013

Summary & Outlook

Inspection of the 2012 Scottish seed potato crop revealed an overall decrease in the area of crops entered for classification that failed to meet the entered grade due to the presence of plants affected with all symptoms of virus.  This total decreased from 2.1% in 2011 to 1.1% in 2012. This overall change was as a result of a marked decrease in downgrades due to mild mosaic from 1.2% in 2011 to 0.6% in 2012; a decrease from 0.7% to 0.4% in crops failing to hold grade due to severe mosaic symptoms; and a decrease in leafroll from 0.3% to 0.1%. 

Evidence collected at SASA over recent years using field trials to monitor the timing of virus transmission throughout the growing season and correlating changes in virus incidence recorded at crop inspection with aphid activity indicates that cereal aphids have an important role in transmitting PVY, the prevalent cause of mosaics.  The evidence revealed a strong relationship between PVY transmission in Scotland and two aphid species: the Rose-Grain aphid Metopolophium dirhodum and the Grain aphid Sitobion avenae.  Given the extremely low levels of both of these species during 2012, the prediction for the area of the seed crop failing to hold grade due to mosaic symptoms caused by PVY is expected to decrease further in 2013. 

Following the relatively mild winter of 2011-2012, SASA forecast that the first suction trap catches of the Peach-Potato aphid Myzus persicae would be relatively early in 2012 and there was also potential for populations to reach significant levels during the period of crop growth.  Probably as a result of the poor summer weather, these populations did not develop in 2012.  Consequently, the incidence of leafroll is expected to show only a slight increase from the current very low level.  

Following a slightly cooler than average winter in 2012-2013, SASA is forecasting that the first suction trap catches of the Peach-Potato aphid Myzus persicae will occur relatively late, in mid June 2013.  The potential for populations to reach significant levels during the period of crop growth is therefore not high.  Consequently, the Aphid Monitoring Programme will not be included within the 2013 SPCS requirements.  We do however advise growers to check these webpages to see how aphid populations are developing as the season progresses.

Bee Health


SASA provides laboratory based diagnostic support for Scottish bee inspectors in the identification and control of the statutory bee diseases American Foul Brood, European Foul Brood, Tropilaelaps mites and Small Hive beetle. Suspect samples submitted by Scottish bee inspectors are examined for the presence of these statutory bee diseases, and if found SASA provides support in the implementation of legislation and control of these diseases. View more information about bee health in Scotland and the role of the Scottish bee inspectors.

If you think you need to contact a bee inspector, please email Bees Mailbox with your details.

The Scottish Government published a Honey Bee Health Strategy in July 2010. The aim of this Strategy is to achieve a sustainable and healthy population of honey bees for pollination and honey production in Scotland by working with stakeholders with an interest in honey bees. SASA is closely involved in the development and implementation of this ten year action plan.

As part of this action plan, Scottish beekeepers can now sign up to Beebase. This allows beekeepers to register their details free of charge on a secure database and allows them access to an extensive range of information on bee health, including up to date information on the distribution of bee diseases. Knowing the location of Scottish beekeepers will allow us to manage bee diseases more successfully, and improve the health and long term future of the Scottish honey bee.

SASA also provides a diagnostic service on behalf of the Scottish Government to Scottish beekeepers for the presence of Varroa destructor. Samples of hive debris or hive inserts may be sent for diagnosis to "Bee Diseases" at the address in the contact us box on the right of the screen.

GM Inspectorate

The Scottish Government opposes the cultivation of GM crops which could damage Scotland's rich environment and would threaten our reputation for producing high quality and natural foods.  It would diminish Scotland's image as a land of food and drink.

Taking account of this policy, SASA provides advice on plant health issues related to the contained use of GMOs and, through the GM Inspectorate, advice and inspection services on the release of GM crop plants into the environment.

Key services provided by the GM Inspectorate are:

SASA also provides a diagnostic testing service for the GM Inspectorate.

What is Genetic Modification?

Advances in molecular biology in the mid 1970s enable the genetic material of an organism (either DNA or RNA) to be altered using methods that do not occur in nature and these alterations can be replicated and/or transferred to other cells or organisms. These alterations are known as genetic modification (GM) and plants, animals or microbes resulting from such modifications are known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GM covers a variety of gene insertion techniques which have been applied worldwide in human and veterinary medicine, horticulture, agriculture and as whole products, or ingredients, in food and feed production.

GM raises important safety issues for human health and protection of the environment. Scottish and UK GM legislation requires that these are addressed at every stage of a GMOs or its product’s development, starting in the laboratory through to commercial production (see UK GM Regulatory Framework).

UK GM Regulatory Framework

GMOs are regulated through EU, UK and Scottish legislation each of which requires risk assessments to be carried out at every phase of their development.


The GMO (CU) Regulations cover all aspects of contained use involving genetically modified micro-organims (GMMs) and the human health aspects of contained use involving genetically modified (GM) animals and plants.. The principal legislation is the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2000 (GMO(CU) and its amendment the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 and the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2005.

The Scottish Government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are joint Competent Authorities for Contained Use legislation in Scotland. The Scottish Government has lead responsibility in Scotland for the effects from contained use of GMOs (GMMs, GM plants and GM animals) have on the environment. The HSE has lead responsibility for human health and safety throughout Great Britain. The HSE administers the permissions process and enforces the legislation on behalf of the Scottish Government. Further Guidance can be obtained from the HSE website.


In Scotland the EU Directive 2001/18/EC is implemented via the Environmental Protection Act (1990) and the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) (Scotland) Regulations 2002. These provide a statutory safety procedure, involving risk assessment, and the need for prior approval before any GMO can be released or marketed.

Scottish Ministers consent to the release of GM crops for research and development purposes. NIEWS acts as a clearing house for applications for deliberate release; provides the secretariat for the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) (see below); and co-ordinates the international presentation of UK policy.

The EU Directive recognises two classes of release depending upon their purpose: Part B releases for research and development and Part C releases for placing on the market. In the UK, Part B consents are granted, on a case-by-case basis, after a detailed risk assessment has been submitted to the Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland GM Unit (NIEWS)  in Defra and considered by, a statutory Advisory Committee, consisting of independent scientific experts who advise on the risks to human health and the environment from the release of GMOs. The committee advises Scottish Ministers on whether an application for a release in Scotland should be allowed. Scottish Ministers also take advice from the Health and Safety Executive, the Food Standards Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage as appropriate. Consents set out the conditions and limitations governing releases. Part C releases are granted at the EU level and are effective throughout the EU.

Compliance with the above legislation regulations is established by official inspection. Non-compliance with consent conditions can lead to enforcement action including, where necessary, forwarding cases to the Procurator Fiscal Service. SASA took responsibility for the inspection and enforcement of the deliberate release and marketing of GMOs (principally crops plants) in Scotland in May 2000. At that time, the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) was contracted by Defra to carry out the equivalent inspection and enforcement service for England and Wales. CSL was merged along with a number of Defra’s delivery divisions and Inspectorates to form the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).


In April 2004, EU Regulation EC/1829/2003 on GM food and feed came into force throughout the European Union. The regulation provides a single community procedure for the authorisation of any GMO whose produce, or derived products, that are intended for food or feed, including the cultivation of crop plants that are intended for these uses. The majority of marketing applications are now processed through this regulation. This single unified approval for food and feed uses will not then require approval under Part C of Directive 2001/18/EC. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) manages the application and authorisation procedure centrally. For applications including cultivation an environmental risk assessment in keeping with the requirements of 2001/18/EC is required, and EFSA is obliged to consult the 2001/18 competent authorities concerning environmental risk assessments. The Foods Standards Agency leads on these applications in the UK, while the role of ACRE is to advise on the environmental risk assessments provided with applications for cultivation. Allied to this regulation are new traceability and labelling rules, EC/1830/2003, which include a threshold of 0.9%, above which the adventitious presence of material from an EU authorised GMO in a non-GM product triggers traceability and labelling of the product. Enforcement of these regulations (1829/2003 and 1830/2003) in Scotland is the responsibility of Local Authority Environmental Health (food) or Trading Standards (feed) Departments.


EU legislation on seeds (notably Directive 2002/53/EC on the Common Catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species and 2002/55/EC on the marketing of vegetable seed) requires national authorities that have agreed to the marketing of seed of a certain variety on their territory to notify the acceptance of the variety to the European Commission. Seed legislation also requires that genetically modified varieties must be authorised in accordance with EU Directive 2001/18/EC before they are included in the Common Catalogue and marketed in the EU.

Aims and Key Services

Scottish Government GM inspectors are appointed under Part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The work is in support of the CAP Reform and Crop Policy Branch of the Rural and Environment Directorate who are Scotland’s Competent Authority for the regulation of the deliberate release of GMO’s under EC Directive 2001/18.

The full range of services we provide is set out in an agreed work plan. The latest plan is published in the 2010-12 Review of SASA GM Inspectorate.  View a list of all Annual Reports and Reviews.

For details of the GM legislation that inspectors work to see UK GM Regulatory Framework.

The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), is authorised by Defra to carry out equivalent inspection and enforcement services in England. SASA liaises closely with the Scottish Government GM Inspectorate at Fera, particularly in sharing information about seed material that crosses borders for production or marketing, and incidents that are common to both England and Scotland. Northern Ireland and Wales make their own arrangements.

Seed Notification Scheme

Genetically modified crops are steadily being grown more widely throughout the world since they were first commercialised in 1996. Where GMO crops are grown in seed producing areas, there is a risk of cross-pollination or GM seed inadvertently becoming mixed amongst conventional (non-GM) seedlots. This is known as adventitious GM presence (AGMP)

To assist Scottish merchants, processors and packers (MPP) minimise the risk of marketing seed that may contain AGMP, the GM Inspectorate runs a voluntary scheme to determine whether seed of high risk species has been imported directly into Scotland.  Questionnaires are sent out to all MPPs biannually.

  • Declarations of importation: where a notification is made on the questionnaire, this will be followed up with further enquiries so that compliance with the GM Deliberate Release Regulations can be demonstrated. This may lead, on a case-by-case basis, to an audit and if necessary inspection of the imported seed. See Guidance for seed importers
  • Nil returns: where high risk seed has been bought from seed suppliers within the UK, we recommend that you read Guidance to market seed supplied from within the UK.

To assist seed producers or importers who wish to market agricultural seed for the purposes of tests and trials see Guidance to market seed for tests and trials.

It is important to note that participation in the monitoring programme should not be seen as an assurance that the GM Inspectorate will not exercise its powers in appropriate cases under Part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Questionnaires can be returned by email or post. The address for email returns is:  GMInspectorate@sasa.gsi.gov.uk.  Postal returns should be sent to Scottish Government GM Inspectorate, SASA, Roddinglaw Road, Edinburgh, EH12 9FJ.

A summary of the biannual surveys and any resulting follow-up action is published in the Scottish Government GM Inspectorate’s Annual Report or Reviews.


Adventitious GM presence in Conventional Seed

In seed producing areas where GM crops co-exist with seed crops of conventionally bred varieties, there is a risk that seed from conventionally bred seed may inadvertently contain GM seed (AGMP) through cross-pollination or physical mixing of seed during processing. The legislative EU framework requires the labelling of conventional seed lots that contain any detectable traces of authorised GM seeds. If unauthorised GM seed is found in conventional crop seed, there is zero tolerance and the affected seedlot cannot be marketed.

Risk analyses undertaken on conventionally breed crops suggest that some species are at a higher risk, relative to other crops, from incorporation of adventitious GM material during seed production. Crops that are important to Scottish Agriculture that fall into this high risk category are:

  • Turnip fodder rape and related crops (Brassica rapa)
  • Winter and spring oilseed rape and related crops (Brassica napus)
  • Fodder maize & sweet corn (Zea mays)

The risk status of all crop species listed above is regularly reviewed.

Importers, producers, processors and merchants of non-GM (conventionally bred) agricultural and vegetable seed are recommended to take all reasonable steps to ensure, before obtaining or marketing high risk category seed it is free of AGMP (see relevant Guidance pages).


Guidance: UK Supplied Seed

Guidance for marketing seed that has been supplied from other companies from within the UK

Anyone considering marketing, species of certified, conventionally-bred crop varieties in Scotland that are of a high risk category of containing adventitious GM presence are advised to:

  • Obtain from your UK seed suppliers, letters of assurance or details of analytical tests on individual batches or seedlots, that follow the Fera GM Inspectorate Guidance for importers and producers on the prevention of adventitious GM presence in conventional varieties.

In Scotland, high risk category species are winter and spring oilseed rape & related species fodder maize & sweet corn.

This information will assist your company meet your legal duties to ensure that you have taken steps to minimise the risk of adventitious GM presence in conventional seed. It will also help you in answering customers questions relating to adventitious GM presence.

Should you have any queries over these measures contact the Scottish Government GM Inspectorate.

Guidance: Imported Seed

Guidance for marketing seed of a high risk category of containing adventitious GM material that has been imported directly into the Scotland from out with the UK

Seed importers that have made a seed declaration on the Scottish Government GM Inspectorate’s Seed Monitoring form are advised to:

  • Obtain a letter of assurance from the breeder giving assurances that the seed is free from adventitious GM presence; or
  • Obtain details of analytical tests on individual seed batches or seedlots.

These measures should follow the Fera GM Inspectorate Guidance for importers and producers on the prevention of adventitious GM presence in conventional varieties of the relevant crops.

It is the role of the Scottish Government GM Inspectorate to audit seed importers to ensure appropriate steps (due diligence) have been taken and that appropriate documentation is available. We will contact import companies and will request access to the following information:

  • The species of the seed
  • The variety of seed
  • The field or lot reference number of the seed
  • The certification category of the seed
  • The country where the seed was produced
  • The weight of seed being imported
  • A letter of assurance or results of analytical tests as described above.

Should you have any queries over these measures contact the GM Inspectorate.

Guidance: Test and Trial Seed

Guidance for marketing seed for tests and trials (scientific purposes and selection work)

It is a requirement under the Seed (Scotland) (Amendments for Tests and Trials etc.) Regulations 2007 (2007 No. 224) and Regulation 9 of the Beet Seed No.2. (Scotland) 2010 (2010 No. 148)  that authorisation is given by either by the Scottish Government or another European Authority for seed to be marketed for the purposes of conducting tests or trials, including tests for scientific purposes and selection work.

Breeders or Merchants, Processors or Packers based in Scotland should apply for the authorisation to use seed for these purposes by contacting SASA either in writing to Cereals Branch or by telephone (0131 244 8856).

For those species that have a high risk category of containing adventitious GM presence, the SG GM Inspectorate also recommends that you obtain a letter of assurance from the breeder of the variety giving assurances that the seed is free from adventitious GM presence or obtain details of analytical tests on individual seed batches or seedlots, that follow the Fera GM Inspectorate Guidance for importers and producers on the prevention of adventitious GM presence in conventional varieties of the relevant crops.

Should you have any queries over these measures contact the GM Inspectorate.

Case by Case Investigations

The GM Inspectorate investigates incidents that arise by through their routine duties or through enquiries that have been brought to the attention the Scottish Government’s CAP Reform and Crop Policy Branch.

Recent incidents have involved the trialling of conventional varieties which contained adventitious GM seed that were not authorised for cultivation.

Investigations are reported to the Scottish Government and are summarised in the GM Inspectorate’s Annual Reports or Reviews.


Site Monitoring

The Scottish Government GM Inspectorate has agreed to directly monitor or oversee monitoring of sites where inadvertent sowings of GM crop seed took place on three sites in September 2008. Monitoring will continue until the autumn of 2011.

Although all Scottish consents for GM crop research trials have expired, landowners of former GM research trial sites, particularly those for oilseed rape, still have an obligation to ensure the produce of following conventional crops complies with the traceability and labelling requirements for food and feed products of GMOs (EU Regulation 1830/2003). This is because GM oilseed rape volunteers can persist at levels that may require a following non-GM oilseed rape crop to be labelled as ‘GM’.

GM Diagnostics

SASA’s Diagnostic and Molecular Biology Branch provides analytical testing support for the GM Inspectorate by detecting genetically modified material using multi-element profiling and event-specific tests.

SASA is a full member of the European Network of GMO laboratories (ENGL) and is one of three UK National Reference Laboratories who assist the EU Community Reference Laboratory in testing and validating methods for detecting and identifying GMOs. Competence in GMO testing is also maintained by regular participation in ISTA GMO Proficiency Ring Tests.

For enquiries concerning GM testing telephone either 0131 244 8878 or 8845.

GM - Useful Links

This page provides links to websites relating to the regulation of GM crop plants

Competent Authority for Deliberate Release to the Scottish Environment

CAP Reform Crops Policy Branch
Scottish Government, Agriculture and Food Division
D Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
Edinburgh EH11 3XD
Telephone: 0131 244 9499 or 9503

UK Lead Territorial Competant Authority for Deliberate Release
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
GM Team
Area 8A, Millbank
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
Tel: 020 7238 2051 or 2054

Government GM web sites
Scottish Government – Genetic Modification 
Defra GM (Genetic Modification) (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Government Advisory committees
Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE)
Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification (ACGM)
ACGM Compendium of Guidance
Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP)
Human Genetics Commission (HGC)

Other public bodies/Agencies
Food Standards Agency, Scotland (FSA)
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Fera GM Inspectorate (the English GM Inspectorate at Fera HQ, York)

Directive 2001/18/EC the European directive covering GM releases to the environment
The Environmental Protection Act (1990)
The Genetically Modified organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2000
The Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2002
The Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2005
The Genetically Modified (Deliberate Release) (Scotland) Regulations 2002

International bodies
ENGL European Network of GM Laboratories
ISTA GMO Proficiency Tests (International Seed Testing Association)


Aphid Phenology in Scotland

Many aphid species are specialist herbivores and major pests of agriculture, forestry and horticulture. They have short generation times and rapid growth rates making them one of the invertebrate groups that are most sensitive to climate change. 

SASA monitors aphids caught in four 12.2m suction traps operated continuously at Dundee (since 1967), Edinburgh (1969), Elgin (1970) and Ayr (1974). Daily records of abundance of aphid species are available from the main aphid flight season and weekly records from other times. 

Within the EU-funded EXAMINE project a consortium of scientists involved in collecting national data on aphid distribution has developed one of the most comprehensive databases for any terrestrial invertebrate group anywhere in the world. EXAMINE covers a network of standard suction traps established in 22 countries, providing a unique resource for studies on the impacts of global change on phenology and abundance(http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/examine/).

Negative trends were found when the dates of first capture in the Scottish suction traps were examined for 43 out of 46 aphid species over the period 1971–2004.  Twenty of these 43 trends were statistically significant and the mean trend indicates that over this 34-year period the date of first capture in 2004 was earlier by 0.47 days/annum or 16 days in total.  The average response to temperature was 12.5 days/°C. The green spruce aphid (Elatobium abietinum) has advanced by 4.3 days/decade and 8.1 days/°C and has been proposed as an indicator species for looking at terrestrial phenology (Sparks et al., 2006). 

Date of first capture of the green spruce aphid 1967-2010

Live aphid data are available on the Aphid Monitoring Programme pages in the form of weekly bulletins.  More specific requests should be made to jon.pickup@sasa.gsi.gov.uk.

Suction trap catches can be used to study changes in the biodiversity of a wide range of insect groups.  Only aphids are currently identified, but historic catches are retained at SASA.


Sparks, T.H., Collinson, N., Crick, H., Croxton, P., Edwards, M., Huber, K., Jenkins, D., Johns, D., Last, F., Maberly, S., Marquiss, M., Pickup, J., Roy, D., Sims, D., Shaw, D., Turner, A., Watson, A., Woiwod, I. and Woodbridge, K. (2006). Natural Heritage Trends of Scotland: phenological indicators of climate change. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 167 (ROAME No. F01NB01)

Wildlife Crime

Wildlife crime manifests itself in many ways from the illegal international trade in wildlife to the deliberate persecution of animals.  Investigating wildlife crime often requires an unusual set of forensic tools, and here at SASA we have expertise relating to chemical analysis of suspected animal poisoning, and also wildlife DNA forensics.


The illegal poisoning of animals is a particular crime that has persisted in Scotland for decades.   It is no surprise that pesticides have emerged as the poisons of choice.  Many pest control products (pesticides or biocides) are designed to kill or control invertebrate (insect) or vertebrate (rodent) pests.  However, if these chemicals are used incorrectly they can be extremely toxic to animals and humans.

SASA specialises in the detection, identification and quantitation of a wide range of chemicals involved in illegal poisoning.  A variety of specimens such as suspected victims and baits, suspicious substances and poisoning paraphernalia are submitted for chemical residue analysis.  Analytical results obtained are used as evidence in criminal proceedings or for enforcement of Scottish Government policies.  SASA chemists can also be cited to appear as expert witnesses.

Wildlife DNA forensics

At SASA, we carry out wildlife DNA forensic analysis for the police and other organisations involved in wildlife crime investigation. Investigators can find a wide range of evidence that can be subjected to forensic DNA analysis: from trace samples such as blood, fur or feathers, to powdered medicines or ornamental carvings.

At its broadest level, this evidence can be used to identify the species present. From trace evidence or processed products it is often not possible to identify the species present without using DNA based species identification.

Following species identification, it can be necessary to carry out more detailed DNA profiling to tie a suspect to a specific crime. For example paternity testing of captive birds of prey can determine whether the breeding records are correct, or whether birds may have been illegally collected from the wild. It is also possible to use DNA profiling to match a trace sample, such as blood on a suspect’s clothing, to a specific animal carcass – tying the suspect to a specific crime.

In addition to analysing evidence in ongoing wildlife crime investigations, we also carry out research to improve the variety of DNA tests available for the forensic analysis of non-human samples.

Rhinoceros DNA Database Project

SASA is setting up a DNA database to provide a unique identifier for individual rhinoceros horn in UK museums and also zoo animals. This is in response to an increase in rhino horn theft from museums in recent years and an initiative by UK enforcement to crack down on this illegal activity perpetrated by criminal gangs. Unique DNA profiles will be generated from small samples of horn, which will help trace the origin of any stolen rhino horn intercepted by the police or customs.

Museums interested in getting involved with this project should email wildlifeforensics@sasa.gsi.gov.uk for more information.

View the press release regarding this project and information for media enquiries.

Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS)

Incidents of suspected poisoning of animals by pesticides in Scotland are investigated. The aim of the scheme is to identify any adverse effects on non-target animals that might arise from the approved use of pesticides. If the data gathered by the scheme, and sister schemes throughout the UK, indicate a particular problem, then the registration status of the pesticide concerned is subject to review by the UK regulatory body. The data are also used in the validation and improvement of risk assessments for existing and new compounds.

In cases where there is evidence to indicate either the misuse or the deliberate abuse of pesticides, the results of investigations may also be used in the enforcement of legislation affording protection to animals.

Annual reports on animal poisoning in Scotland from 1999 to date can be downloaded from the Animal Poisoning Reports page.

Research Activities

There is an on-going requirement to develop and refine high quality analytical methodologies to meet demands associated with the introduction of new pesticides, to deal effectively with any concerns relating to existing pesticides, and to make analytical efficiency gains. 

Find out more about the analytical techniques currently available.

See also the list of Pesticide & Chemical Analysis papers and poster presentations.

How To Report Pesticide Incidents

Information on how to go about reporting pesticide incidents

Animals (Wildlife & Pets)

Incidents of suspected poisoning of animals in Scotland involving;

  • Wild birds and mammals
  • Companion animals
  • Livestock
  • Honeybees

should be notified to the WIIS scheme operated at SASA on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Samples may be submitted to the scheme by;

  • direct submission to the SASA laboratory
  • submission to the nearest Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Delivery Division Area Office 
  • via the regional SAC Veterinary Investigation Laboratories 
  • submissions from Police Wildlife Officers 
  • through informal partner organisations such as the RSPB and SSPCA


Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Delivery Division - Area Office

In the case of pets, ask your veterinary practice to refer the carcase, or relevant samples, to the local Veterinary Investigation Centre of the Scottish Agricultural College. (Other animals may also be submitted via this route).

Contact Points 

Campaign Against Illegal Poisoning of Wildlife - A government led campaign aimed at protecting some of the rarest birds of prey and wildlife, and safeguarding domestic animals established in 1991. Members of the public can report suspicions of illegal poisoning (abuse of pesticides) on a free phone number (0800 321 600). In Scotland this number is linked to the SASA laboratory during working hours, and out of hours messages can be recorded.

Useful Links

The Chemicals Regulations Directorate provide information on pesticides, animal poisoning, and the Campaign Against Illegal Poisoning of Wildlife (CAIP).

General information on reporting other types of pesticide incidents is available from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

Environmental contamination incidents in Scotland should be reported to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) Pollution Hotline 0800 80 70 60.

Laboratory Investigations

Covering post mortem examinations and pesticide analysis

Post Mortem Examination

Post mortem examination is an essential element of the investigation. Other causes of death that may be unrelated to possible exposure to a pesticide can be identified, eliminating the requirement for analysis. Alternatively evidence consistent with poisoning being the cause of death may be gained, and appropriate tissue samples taken for analysis

Pesticide Analysis

Field information is used together with the findings of the post mortem examination to determine the extent of any analytical investigation. Analytical techniques and equipment capable of identifying low levels of pesticides considered to present possible hazards to vertebrates or beneficial insects are employed. Multi-residue methods are used for carbamate, organochlorine, organophosphorus, and pyrethroid compounds, and for anticoagulant rodenticides. These are supplemented by compound specific analytical methods for chloralose, metaldehyde, paraquat, strychnine and other compounds. Residues identified are subject to rigorous confirmation criteria for acceptance. The laboratory operates to an internal quality system accredited to the ISO 17025 standard for testing laboratories by UKAS, with some of the above methods included in the scope of accreditation.

Field Investigations

Field investigations are often only triggered following the identification of a specific pesticide as the likely cause of poisoning. However field investigations may be initiated following either notification, or after post-mortem examination, if sufficient evidence of pesticide involvement is available.

Field investigations are carried out by Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Delivery Division Staff, located in Area Offices throughout Scotland. On occasions, these officials may work in joint operations with Police Wildlife Crime Officers.

Further animal samples or other relevant materials obtained during the field investigation are submitted to SASA for analysis.

Reporting and Follow-up Action

How SASA reports on incidents and what follow-up action might be taken

Field information and residue data are assessed, and where possible incidents of poisoning attributed to one of the following categories of use:

Approved use




Veterinary use

Unspecified use

View more information about these categories on the WIIS Quarterly Reports page.

At the conclusion of each investigation, an individual incident report is issued to the person who initiated the incident and to partner organisations which participated in the investigation.

WIIS database

A database of incident information (1980 onwards) is maintained, and can be interrogated to provide information required by the Scottish Government and to service requests from other parties.

Requests for information should be directed to Mike Taylor or Elizabeth Sharp.

Regulatory Action

Details of incidents where pesticides poisoning has been shown to be the cause are forwarded to the UK regulatory body, Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD). The data are included in annual reports on the poisoning of animals by pesticides, published by the Environmental Panel of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. In addition CRD selectively request information from the WIIS database (1972 onwards) to support the ongoing approvals review process.

Enforcement Action

Where sufficient evidence of the misuse of a pesticide formulation is accrued, then reports by SASA and by Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Delivery Division Staff may be made to the Procurator Fiscal Service with a view to prosecution. Depending on the circumstances, the Scottish Government may place a legal order on an individual requiring them to take appropriate remedial action to prevent further danger to animals.

Incidents involving the suspected deliberate abuse of pesticides are actively pursued, usually on a multi-agency basis by Scottish Government Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities Directorate Staff, the Police and other partner organisations, with a view to eventual prosecution.

Information on pesticide legislation can be found on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website through the link in the Related Links box on the right of the screen.

WIIS Quarterly Reports

Latest results for 2013

The results of incidents involving pesticides have, until now, been published quarterly in January, April, July and October.  It is now our intention that the results of all incidents reported to SASA will be available in a searchable spreadsheet which will still be published quarterly.  However, due to the nature of some incidents and the investigations relating to these it may be necessary to limit the information published.  We will publish updates to such cases as further information becomes available.  This new reporting format will replace SASA publication of the annual Pesticide Poisoning of Animals Report – A Report of Investigations in Scotland.

To make the information clearer all reported incidents will now identify whether the pesticides found in an incident were the principle cause of the incident or present at background or trace levels only.  The information will be presented as follows: 

Pesticide involved: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that these pesticide(s) were the principle cause.

Other Pesticides found: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that these pesticide(s) were present, but were at background or trace levels only.

The categories

From 2013 information regarding the categories will also be clearer and where appropriate provide additional information as it relates to the results.  For example, where the death of an animal is from a cause other than pesticide poisoning and the other cause is known this will be reported under additional information. The categories used to classify pesticide poisoning incidents are:

Approved use: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that the pesticide(s) involved were used in accordance with their conditions of authorisation. Where an animal is involved the cause of death has been established as pesticide poisoning.

Misuse: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that the pesticide(s) involved were not used in accordance with their conditions of authorisation.  The pesticides involved may have been used carelessly or accidently but there was no indication of any intention to deliberately harm wildlife or other animals. Where an animal is involved the cause of death has been established as pesticide poisoning.

Abuse: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that the pesticide(s) involved had been used in breach of their authorisation conditions and that this has been done with the deliberate intent of harming or attempting to harm wildlife or other animals. Where an animal is involved the cause of death has been established as pesticide poisoning.

Unspecified: An investigation into the circumstances of the case could not establish where the pesticide may have come from and therefore if the pesticide(s) involved were used in accordance with their conditions of authorisation; if the pesticide had been misused or whether or not there was a deliberate intention to harm wildlife or other animals. Where an animal is involved the cause of death has been established as pesticide poisoning.

Unknown: The cause of death has not been established as pesticide poisoning; an investigation into the circumstances of the case could not establish a cause of harm or death and found no evidence of the involvement of pesticides.

It is not always possible to establish that pesticides are involved in a case reported under the scheme; this may be because samples are not available for chemical analysis or because the results of analysis are inconclusive.  Where a case is classified as unknown and this was due to a problem with the availability or quality of samples this will be reported under additional information.

Other cause: The cause of death has not been established as pesticide poisoning; an investigation into the circumstances of the case found no evidence of the involvement of pesticides and was able to attribute another probable cause.

Where a case is accepted into the scheme and another cause of death is identified it is less likely that samples will be tested for the full range of chemical analyses, although analysis may still be undertaken in cases where pesticides are strongly suspected.  Where a case is classified as “Other cause” the cause of death will be identified as far as possible and will be reported under additional information. Other causes include trauma (road traffic accidents, shooting, etc.), disease or starvation.

Not applicable: An investigation into the circumstances of the case was not able to establish a link to pesticide use.  No wildlife or other animals were involved and any suspected baits or other samples contained no detectable pesticide residues.

Veterinary use: Where it is established that veterinary products are involved in a case. These cases are not formally included in the WIIS scheme but are recorded as some actives substances in veterinary products are also found in pesticides.  Cases involving veterinary products are categorised separately under the scheme and their use is not classified into abuse, misuse, approved use or unspecified use.

Species or Samples involved:  The species or samples that are collected or identified as involved in the case.  Samples collected and analysed under the scheme include the bodies of wildlife and animals, which may be sent for post mortem and associated tests, tissue and other samples sent for chemical analysis, and samples of baits and suspicious substances.  Samples also include beneficial insects (bees) which may be assessed for disease and analysed for pesticide residues.  All available information, including the result of the analysis of samples, is taken into account in assigning cases to a category.

For results prior to 2013 information will continue to be present in the old format as follows:

Approved use: a pesticide is used in accordance with its conditions of authorisation

Misuse: the product has not been used according to the conditions of its authorisation, but often just carelessly or accidently, without the intention of harming animals

Abuse: a pesticide has been deliberately used in an illegal manner to poison, or to try to poison animals

Background residues: residues of pesticides found but levels are probably not indicative of lethal poisoning

Unspecified use: the cause of death was uncertain or the incident could not be classed as being in one of the other categories

Veterinary products: Incidents arising from veterinary use are not included in the scheme


Wildlife Management

Scientific advice and technical expertise are provided to Scottish Government (Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities Directorate; and Environment and Forestry Directorate) where conflict arises between mammalian and avian wildlife, agriculture and the environment. Advice relates to policy matters, changes in UK or EC legislation, licensing to kill or take protected species and general advice regarding any aspect of vertebrate management procedures.

Wildlife Management staff support Scottish Government Animal Health and Welfare Division with regard to the control of wildlife in the event of a rabies outbreak (under the 1974 Rabies (Control) Order). Staff contributed to the recent revisions of the Scottish Government Rabies Contingency Plan and Rabies Wildlife Control Plan.

Trial of tapes used to deter sawbill ducks from predating salmon smolt as they move trhough the tailrace gates at Pitlochry DamCurrent research and development work includes annual pest surveys, and work in support of current policy such as trialling bird scaring devices to prevent damage to fish stocks, survey to identify locations of feral pigs and boar (view the SASA poster Wild Boar distribution in Scotland), and a survey of UK molecatchers.

Wildlife Management staff were involved in the project management of the trial Use of Falcons to Displace Nesting Gulls from an Urban Area, which took place in Dumfries - view the Final Report.

The Branch is involved in the provision and development of advice and small-scale projects across a wide range of subject areas.  A few examples include:-

Representational duties of Wildlife Management staff include:-

PAW Scotland plenary group
Goose Science Advisory Group (GSAG)
Invasive Non-Native Species working group (INNS)
Gull Task Force (Chair)
Moray Firth Catchment Sawbill Duck Management Group

A list of other relevant publications can be found on the Wildlife Management Publications page. See also the listing of scientific publications by SASA Wildlife Management staff.

Contact: wildlifeunit@sasa.gsi.gov.uk