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 provides GM services and 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 Ayr, 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. Only the traps at Edinburgh and Dundee are identified in 'real time' so are presented as cumulative totals and compared to previous years.

Three additional columns of data are also presented under the title of 'Cumulative Totals'. The first presents the total catch from the two traps (Edinburgh and Dundee) 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. 2016. The final column provides the mean cumulative catch of aphids over the same period during the previous 10 years, i.e. 2006-2016. 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 historic 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, and discontinued in October 2016. Once a new site has been identified the Elgin data will once again be added to the bulletin and cumulative totals. 

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.  The 10-year averages for Edinburgh now consist entirely of data from the new trap.

Due to time restraints, data from the Ayr trap will not be included in the Scottish aphid bulletin cumulative totals during 2017. The trap continues to run and we hope to be able to identify catches from it in real time when time allows.

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 2017

Prolonged exposure to low winter temperatures are known to have lethal and sub-lethal effects on populations of M. persicae which, in Scotland, overwinters 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.  In 2011, following an extremely cold December 2010, SASA predicted early season aphid activity have been based on the mean temperatures during the three-month period of December-February.  We intend to continue to use the model based on the three month period.

During winter 2016-17, the mean temperatures were above the mean over the last 50 years:  5.6°C at SASA (Edinburgh; mean = 4.0°C) and 5.1°C at JHI (Dundee; mean = 3.7°C).  These winter temperatures rank the 5th warmest from the last 49 years at Edinburgh and the 4th warmest from the last 51 years at Dundee.  Based on these figures, the predictions for the first flight of M. persicae is 22 May at Edinburgh (average date of first catch is 15 June) and 29 May at Dundee (average date of first catch is 16 June).  Therefore, M. persicae activity in 2017 is expected to commence 2 to 3 weeks earlier than in an average summer.

In 2016, the first M. persicae at Edinburgh was recorded on 20 June, 5 days later than the average date of first catch and 25 days later than predicted.  The first M. persicae at Dundee was recorded on 1 June, 15 days earlier than the average date and 3 days earlier than predicted.  The Dundee prediction was well within the 75% confidence limits; the reasons for the late arrival of the Edinburgh aphids are unclear.

The predictions for the Potato aphid Macrosiphum euphorbiae, Rose-Grain aphid Metopolophium dirhodum and the Grain aphid Sitobion avenae are provided by Rothamsted Research and are based on mean temperatures over January and February 2017.

Table 1

  2017 Prediction 75% Confidence Limits 2016 Obs'n

2017 Obs'n

Myzus persicae 22 May 30 April - 13 June 20 June 17 May
Macrosiphum euphorbiae 12 May 20 April - 4 June 30 May 9 May
Metopolophium dirhodum 17 May 23 April - 11 June 23 May 28 April
Sitobion avenae 20 May 29 April- 10 June 30 May 24 May
Myzus periscae 29 May 3 May - 24 June 1 June 12 May
Macrosiphum euphorbiae 23 May 28 April - 16 June 25 May 29 April
Metopolophium dirhodum 28 May 6 May - 19 June 31 May 29 April
Sitobion avenae 29 May 10 May - 17 June 9 June 16 May

The average temperatures over the 2016-17 winter indicate that the first flights of M. persicae should be 18 - 24 days earlier than the mean dates in mid-June.  Consequently, they have more potential to develop to significantly high population levels. The prediction for the total of M. persicae caught by 31 July is 41 at Edinburgh and 47 at Dundee.  The 75% confidence intervals for these predictions are 14 at the lower end and 159 at the upper for Dundee and 11 at the lower end and 151 at the upper for Edinburgh.  Therefore, populations of M. persicae could build up to significant levels during 2017. Therefore, it the potential exists for the risk of leafroll transmission to develop to high levels, particularly in crops of potato varieties that are highly susceptible.  M. persicae is also a vector of PVY but it appears that only in exceptional years do populations of this species develop within crops to such an extent as to present a risk comparable to that provided by the usually much more numerous cereal aphids. 

View archive aphid predictions 

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 2016

During 2016, the four dominant species of cereal aphids were relatively scarce in the aphid traps when compared with an 'average' year.  For the period when most virus transmission is believed to occur (before 31 July), the catches of the Rose-Grain aphid ranked 28th over the last 32 years, the Bird Cherry-Oat aphid ranked 16th and the Grain aphid ranked 27th.  These are the three species most strongly associated with the transmission of the most prevalent potato virus (PVY) in Scotland. Therefore, it is anticipated that the incidence of plants showing mosaic symptoms in 2017 will be significantly lower than the levels observed in the 2016 potato crop.  Therefore, whilst it is still recommended that crops are rogued to remove any visible sources of virus inoculum, infected plants should be relatively scarce.  Virus management options will need to be considered should high populations of aphid vectors develop over the season.

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 2017

The first cereal aphids of 2017 were caught in the Scottish traps during the week ending 23 April, approximately 3 weeks earlier than average. After higher than average numbers for most cereal aphid species early in the season and a few weeks of fairly wet weather, the summer migration appears to be later than average.

As the Elgin trap is not currently in operation, we will be reporting on Edinburgh and Dundee catches only.

Please note that most of the graphs below represent actual numbers of aphids caught in these two east coast suction traps using a log scale. Viewing population data on a log scale makes it easier to spot subtle changes in numbers when comparing 2017 data to the large number of aphids caught in previous seasons.

Rose-Grain aphid in 2017

347 Rose-Grain aphids (Metopolophium dirhodum) were caught in the Scottish (Dundee and Edinburgh) suction traps up to 16 July, ranking 20th over the last 30 years. Springtime numbers were higher than average, but there are no signs of a summer migration so far. The first individual of this season was caught in Edinburgh on 28 April.


Grain aphid in 2017

145 Rose-Grain aphids were caught in the Scottish (Edinburgh and Dundee) suction traps to 16 July. This total ranks 20th over the last 30 years. The first grain aphid of 2017 was caught in the Dundee suction trap on 16 May.


Bird Cherry-Oat aphid in 2017

221 Bird Cherry-Oat aphids were caught in the Scottish (Dundee and Edinburgh) suction traps up to 16 July.  The 2017 total catch for this species currently ranks at 20th over the last 30 years. The first individual was caught in the Edinburgh trap on 18 April.

Apple-Grass aphid in 2017

A total of 85 Apple-Grass aphids have been caught up to 16 July. This 2017 season total currently ranks at 23rd over the last 30 years. The first individal of the season was caught in Edinburgh on 17 April.

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, overwinters 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.  In 2011, following an extremely cold December 2010, SASA predicted early season aphid activity have been based on the mean temperatures during the three-month period of December-February.  We intend to continue to use the model based on the three month period.

During winter 2016-17, the mean temperatures were above the mean over the last 50 years:  5.6°C at SASA (Edinburgh; mean = 4.0°C) and 5.1°C at JHI (Dundee; mean = 3.7°C).  These winter temperatures rank the 5th warmest from the last 49 years at Edinburgh and the 4th warmest from the last 51 years at Dundee.  Based on these figures, the predictions for the first flight of M. persicae is 22 May at Edinburgh (average date of first catch is 15 June) and 29 May at Dundee (average date of first catch is 16 June).  Therefore, M. persicae activity in 2017 is expected to commence 2 to 3 weeks earlier than in an average summer.

The higher than average temperatures over 2016-17 winter indicates that the first flights of M. persicae should be 2- 3 weeks earlier than on average.  Consequently, they are more likely to be able to develop into significantly high populations (see table above).  The prediction for the total of M. persicae caught by 31 July is 47 at Dundee and 41 at Edinburgh.  The 75% confidence intervals for these predictions are 14 at the lower end for Dundee and 11 at the lower end for Edinburgh, and 159 at the upper for Dundee and 151 at Edinburgh.  Therefore, populations of M. persicae have the potential to build up to moderately high levels during 2017.  Therefore, there is scope for a higher than usual risk of leaf roll transmission in crops of potato varieties susceptible to leaf roll.  However, M. persicae is also a vector of PVY, but only in exceptional years do populations of this species develop within crops to such an extent as to present a risk comparable to that provided by the usually much more numerous cereal aphids.


 M. persicae Dundee Edinburgh
First catch in 2017 12 May 17 May
1st catch prediction 2017 29 May 22 May
Mean date of first Catch 16 June 15 June
Catch to 16 July 2017 (Dundee - 12 July) 81 92
Predicted catch to 31 July 2017 47 41
Mean catch to 31 July 41 34

Peach-Potato aphids in 2017

As of 16 July (Dundee - 12 July), 173 Peach-Potato aphid have been caught in the Scottish suction traps. This total ranks 2nd highest of the total catches of this species to this date over the previous 30 years. 47% of this total has been caught at Dundee and 53% at Edinburgh. The first individual was caught at Dundee in 12 May, over a month earlier than average and 17 days earlier than predicted but well within 75% confidence limits. The first aphid at Edinburgh was caught on 17 May, followed by another on 19th. 



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, early season predictions made following the 2016-2017 winter indicated that Potato aphid flights should be earlier than in an average year.  Therefore, there is the potential for total catches of Potato aphids to be relatively high and consequently the risk of virus transmission within potato crops colonised by Potato aphids could be higher than normal. However, environmental conditions over the early summer do influence population development, and growers should monitor how the populations of this species develop over the season.


 M. euphorbiae Dundee Edinburgh
First catch 2017 29 April 9 May 
First catch prediction 2017 22 May 10 May
Mean date of first catch 1 June 24 May
Catch to 16 July (Dundee - 12 July) 2017 24 75
Predicted catch to 31 July 2017 N/A N/A
Mean catch to 31 July 73 57


Potato aphids in 2017

99 potato aphids have been caught so far in 2017 - this total to 16 July (12 July for Dundee) ranks 10th out of the last 30 years.

Summary & Outlook

Inspection of the 2016 Scottish seed potato crop revealed an incidence of crops containing virus affected plants of 6.7% of the total area entered for classification (down from 7.0% in 2015).  This is the lowest level recorded since 2003 (5.2%). 

Changes to the classification scheme mean that the incidence of severe mosaic symptoms is no longer recorded at inspection, all mosaics being classed together.  The incidence of mosaic symptoms decreased to 6.4% from 6.7% in 2015. 

The incidence of PVY was recorded at 5.1%, markedly above the level of 2.4% predicted in March 2015.  Using the same model, based on the three most abundant cereal aphids which have been most closely linked with PVY transmission in Scotland, the incidence of PVY is expected to decrease from 5.1% of the SPCS crop area containing plants with symptoms to 3.6% in 2017.  The incidence of crops containing any leaf roll decreased from 0.35% in 2015 to 0.26%.  In 2017, leaf roll is expected to increase to around 0.7-0.8% of the crop area.

Following the 2016-17 winter, when temperatures were above average, the SASA forecasts for the first suction trap catches of peach-potato aphids are 22 May for Edinburgh and 29 May for Dundee.  Following a similar early forecast in 2016, the potential for populations of this species to build up to significant levels during the period of crop growth did not materialise, so minimal levels of leaf roll are expected when the 2017 crop is grown.


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.

See also the Scottish Government's Review into Options for Restocking Honey Bee Colonies in Scotland.

GM Services

GM Team

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

Taking account of this policy, SASA provides advice on the release of GM crop plants and other organisms (GMOs) into the environment and on the contained use of GMOs.  In addition the GM team provides GM diagnostic testing services.  

GM Inspectorate

The GM Inspectorate is also based at SASA.  Key services provided are:

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

What is Genetic Modification?

Advances in molecular biology made 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. 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 techniques which have been applied worldwide in human and veterinary medicine, horticulture, agriculture, biotechnology and for research purposes.

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

GM Regulatory Framework

GMOs are primarily regulated through EU legislation with supporting UK and Scottish legislation. 

For detailed information, see the Genetic Modification (GM) Legislation page on the gov.scot website.

All work involving GMOs is regulated. Work carried out in laboratories, glass houses or which is otherwise contained, where there is no release into the environment, is considered ‘contained use’ work. The HSE is responsible for assessing risk to human health of all work involving the contained use of GMOs in the UK. The GM team at SASA and scientific experts from other Scottish-based organisations provide advice about the environmental risk of contained use GMO work to be carried out in Scotland. For more information on working with GMOs in a contained way and how to notify your work, or apply for consent see the HSE webpage.  

Consents for releasing GMOs into the environment for research purposes are granted on a case by case basis by Scottish Ministers. A detailed risk assessment must be submitted to the CAP Reform and Crop Policy Team at Saughton House, and is considered by ACRE (Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment). ACRE comprises independent scientific experts who advise on the risks to human health and the environment from the release of GMOs. Scottish Ministers also take advice from SASA, the Health and Safety Executive, the Food Standards Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage as appropriate. Consents set out the conditions and limitations governing releases.  

Consents for releasing GMOs for commercial reasons are granted at the EU level and are effective throughout the EU. The EU legislation has recently been amended to allow member states to opt-out or ban GM cultivation on their territory. This legislation allows member states and regions to ban biotech crops for reasons other than the risks to health and the environment assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Compliance with the above regulations is established by official inspection. Non-compliance with consent conditions can lead to enforcement action including forwarding cases to the Procurator Fiscal Service where necessary. SASA has taken responsibility for the inspection and enforcement of the deliberate release and marketing of GMOs (principally crops plants) in Scotland since May 2000.  For England and Wales, GM inspection and enforcement services for the deliberate release of GMOs are provided for Defra by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

Allied to the GMO regulations are traceability and labeling rules, 1830/2003/EC, which include a threshold of 0.9%, above which the adventitious (accidental) 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

GM Team

The GM Team provide advice and technical support to Scottish Government colleagues and participates in UK committees on experimental deliberate release and contained use of GMOs (SACGM and ACRE). They also administer and provide assessors for applications for the Contained Use of GMOs in Scotland. They are full members of ENGL (the European Network of GMO Laboratories) providing input into EU level GM technical documentation, and also through ENGL, other international technical documentation such as ISO standards. They provide analytical testing to support enforcement activities, and also strategic development and improvement of molecular methods for use in GMO testing.

GM Inspectorate 

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.

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

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)  is authorised by Defra to carry out equivalent inspection and enforcement services in England. SASA liaises closely with the GM Inspectorate in APHA, 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 have separate 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 is 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.

For a summary of the biannual surveys and any resulting follow-up action please see GM Inspectorate Publications.


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 seed 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 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, turnip fodder rape & related species, fodder maize & sweet corn.

This information will assist your company to 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. SASA also provides a GM testing service

These measures should follow the 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 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 Seed Certification Branch, using GM Inspectorate email address or by telephoning Mike Parker (0131 244 8853).

For those species that have a high risk category of containing adventitious GM presence, the Scottish Government 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 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.

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

For information on any case by case investigations please see GM Inspectorate Publications.


Site Monitoring

The Scottish Government GM Inspectorate directly monitored, or oversaw monitoring of, three sites where inadvertent sowings of GM crop seed took place in September 2008. Monitoring was continued until the autumn of 2011 with no further presence detected.

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 - 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 9503

UK Lead Territorial Competant Authority for Deliberate Release
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
GM Policy, Science and Regulation Unit
Area 3B, Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR

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)
Scientific Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification (Contained Use (SACGM)
SACGM Compendium of Guidance
Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP)

Other public bodies/Agencies
Food Standards Scotland 
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
APHA GM Inspectorate (the English GM Inspectorate)

Directive 2001/18/EC the European directive covering GM releases to the environment
Directive (EU) 2015/412 amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory
The Environmental Protection Act (1990) 
The Genetically Modified (Deliberate Release) (Scotland) Regulations 2002
The Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2014

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

GMOs authorised for Deliberate release in the EU for marketing and import
GMO Register

Application and consent process for research purposes in the UK
Genetically Modified Organisms: Applications and Consents


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 Management staff undertake Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) field investigations involving the suspected illegal use of fumigation products, and provide advice to statutory authorities, such as the Police, on the legalities of traps and snares.

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.

Wildlife Crime Awareness

We work in conjunction with Police Scotland and fully support their wildlife crime awareness campaign. For more information on this campaign please see the Police Scotland website.

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.

Wildlife Management staff undertake WIIS field investigations involving the suspected illegal use of fumigation products, and provide advice to statutory authorities, such as the Police, on the legalities of traps and snares.

Annual reports on animal poisoning in Scotland from 1999 to 2012 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 in Scotland

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 (pets, working animals)
  • Livestock
  • Bees and other pollinators ie beneficial insects
    • Suspected baits/suspicious substances

should be notified as soon as possible to WIIS-Scotland.

Contact Points

  • WIIS free phone number (0800 321 600).  This number is linked to SASA during working hours and out-of-hours mesages can be recorded.  Alternatively, email us at wiis-scotland@sasa.gsi.gov.uk
  • Scottish Government Rural Payments & Inspections Division (RPID) - Area Office
  • Police Scotland Wildlife Crime Liaison Officers
  • If you feel that you would rather remain anonymous, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Samples may be submitted to the scheme via

Useful Links

The Health and Safety Executive's Chemicals Regulations Division provides information on pesticides, biocides and WIIS UK.

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

General information on reporting other types of pesticide incidents is available from HSE

Laboratory Investigations

Covering post mortem examinations and pesticide analysis

Post Mortem Examination

Post mortem examinations are undertaken by SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, a division of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), and are 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 employed where possible. Three methods are routinely used: covering a range of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides; anticoagulant rodenticides; chloralose, metaldehyde and strychnine. These are supplemented by compound-specific analytical methods as necessary. 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.

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 (1972 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 Division (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

Incidents involving the suspected deliberate abuse of pesticides are actively pursued by Police Scotland supported by Scottish Government Rural Payments & Inspections Division (RPID) Staff 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

View WIIS Quarterly Reports

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

Example of eagle predation of lambScientific 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, fisheries and game.  Advice relates to policy matters, changes in UK or EU legislation, licensing advice to SNH regarding the killing and taking of protected species and general advice regarding any aspect of vertebrate management procedures.

Wildlife Management staff:-

  • support Scottish Government Animal Health and Welfare Division and RPID with regard to the control of wildlife vectors and reservoirs in the event of an outbreak of rabies, foot and mouth disease, African swine fever, classical swine fever, Newcastle disease and swine vesicular disease.  View contingency plans
  • conduct research and development work.  View a list of research publications;
  • provide information and expertise to a wide range of stakeholders inside and outside government.  As such, we get involved in the production of guidance and leaflets (see listing below), and we regularly update equipment lists (see listing below) that can be used in the management (exclusion, scaring and capture) of mammals and birds;
  • undertake WIIS field investigations involving the suspected illegal use of fumigation products, and provide advice to statutory authorities, such as the Police, on the legalities of traps and snares, and on aspects of mammal and bird behaviour.

Creating artificial cover in pheasant release pens to help prevent avian predationGuidance on the use of DOC predator traps and construction of tunnels to be used with these traps is also listed below.

Current research is examining the use of live capture traps, used under the general licences, to capture birds. The work supports SG policy, is being partly funded by SNH, and is being conducted in conjunction with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Representational duties of Wildlife Management staff include:-

  • Goose Science Advisory Group (GSAG)
  • Technical Assessment Group (Chair)
  • Non-Native Species Action Group
  • Statutory Group on Non-Native Species
  • Gull Task Force (Chair)
  • PAW Scotland plenary group
  • Moray Firth Catchment Sawbill Duck Management Group
  • Government Oversight Group on the implementation of the Anticoagulant Rodenticide Stewardship Scheme
  • Advisor to CRRU (Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use)

See also our Wild boar sightings in Scotland page.

Contact: wildlifeunit@sasa.gsi.gov.uk 

Wild boar sightings in Scotland

Please submit the following details to info@sears.scotland.gsi.uk:

  • Location, including a description and grid reference if possible
  • Date
  • Time
  • Numbers of adult and young boar seen
  • Any additional information that may be of use. 

We may wish to get back in touch with you if we require further information.  

If you are happy to be contacted, please provide your name and contact details.  If not, please write "DO NOT CONTACT".

Other useful links: