Government refusal to declare Ireland GMO free sparks farmer revolt

‘Clean green status of Ireland’s agricultural industry seriously undermined’, says farm leader.

Sligo News File Online.

Patrick Kent, President of the Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers' Association pictured with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
Patrick Kent, President of the Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association pictured with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

A government decision effectively blocking Ireland being registered as a GMO free zone has caused uproar in farming circles.

Under new legislation, introduced in April, individual EU member states were given until early October to apply for the right to ban GM crops deemed to pose a risk to human health or the environment. However, it has now emerged that Ireland is among a small number of countries that has refused or failed to register by the October 3 deadline.

The government decision, interpreted by many as a move designed to clear the way for the cultivation of GMO or transgenic crops in Ireland, has been attacked as highly threatening to the future of the country’s agricultural industry.

Leader of the powerful Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, Patrick Kent said Ireland’s “clean green status has been seriously undermined” by the government’s decision.

More than half of the EU member states, including Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, have opted to take advantage of the new EU law to ban cultivation of GMO crops within their borders. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are among regions that have also decided to do so.

Alan Kelly, TD, Labour, Minister for the Environment
Alan Kelly, TD, Labour,
Minister for the Environment

Questioning why Ireland had “opted to go the other way”, the ICFSA president said the stance taken by the government afforded “no commercial advantage to farmers.

“Why jeopardise our ability to market our meat and dairy products in the future?”

Mr. Kent said a ban on growing GM crops “would have preserved consumer confidence and allowed us to compete based on our natural environment, quality and strong branding.” It also “would have enhanced the clean green image of Ireland with both domestic and international consumers.”

Genetically modified foods or GM foods, also genetically engineered foods, or what some have termed ‘Frankenstein foods’, are foods produced from organisms – bacteria, viruses, viroids and animal and plant cells – that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the laboratory methods of genetic engineering.

Cultivation and sale of GMO produce is opposed by farmers and consumers across the world, most notably in Europe. Monsanto, a publicly traded American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, headquartered in Creve Coeur, Greater St. Louis, Missouri, is the world’s leading producer of genetically engineered seed.

Credit: Moms of America
Credit: Moms of America

Describing the government position as “very troubling given the importance of both the farming and food processing industries to the Irish economy”, Mr. Kent, who is now calling on Environment Minister, Alan Kelly and his department to “reveal their logic behind this decision” said both Mr. Kelly and Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney must explain why their respective departments “failed to act in the best interests of Irish farmers.”

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