Scottish Agricultural Science Agency

1992 Agency status
1992 Diagnostics and Molecular Biology
1998 Plant Breeders Rights
1998 1999 Devolution - SEERAD
1999 Seed Potato Classification Scheme
2000 GM Inspectorate

1992 saw the creation of The Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, an executive Agency of what is now the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department. SASA continued to keep pace with scientific developments with the creation of the Diagnostics and Molecular Biology (DMB) section in 1992. DMB continued the development of SASA's monoclonal antibody work and also introduced the development of DNA-based techniques, including those based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). SASA's molecular biology work has led to the development of improved methods for detection and identification of plant pathogens, and also to methods for the genetic fingerprinting of potato varieties. Its molecular biology diagnostic expertise has been successfully adapted to support its GM Inspectorate role, with PCR assays developed to detect specific GM DNA. This function was invaluable in SASA’s monitoring of the Scottish sites of the Field Scale Evaluation trials of GM crops which took place across the UK, and will be used to monitor for the adventitious presence of GM material in imported seed stocks.

Seed and planting stock of most agricultural and horticultural crops may still only be marketed if certified. For true seed crops, certification involves a number of controls in addition to field approvals. There are extensive areas of control plots each year at Gogarbank Farm. Certification may also involve laboratory checks for varietal investigation, analytical purity, germination and other characteristics. The seed certification schemes now provide most of the samples entering the Official Seed Testing Station for Scotland at SASA. The Seed Potato Classification Scheme has evolved through several phases since its inception in 1918. This process was taken to its logical conclusion in 1999, with the transfer of the staff responsible for the administration of the scheme to SASA. SASA also became the Certifying Authority for seed potato certification in Scotland, acting in partnership with the Department’s Agricultural Inspectors. Potato cyst nematode infestations are now controlled by statutory soil testing of every field before seed potatoes can be planted.

The pace of technological advance has moved forward at an increasing speed over the past few years and our work methods of today bear little resemblance to those of 1925, but the results remain the same, our continued support of the agricultural industry and the environment in Scotland.

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