Dairy sector must move to GM-free feed to protect its global presence - Glanbia boss
The Irish Dairy industry needs to move towards delivering produce free from genetically modified feedstuffs to consolidate its presence in key markets, a top dairy executive has warned
However, Glanbia Ireland chief executive Jim Bergin has also cautioned that only some consumer markets would pay a premium for GMO-free butter, cheese and milk.
"In Europe, there is the VLOG standard and that is a very, very challenging standard, and for us to achieve that in Ireland, there would have to be a significant change to the supply chain," he said, as Glanbia Ireland launched a €35m revamp of its Wexford cheese plant.
"That is a big step but at the moment, it would seem like if we are to compete successfully in Germany, we are going to have to take that step, simple as that."
Ornua, which has a strong presence in Germany with the popular Kerrygold butter brand, has already flagged that it is competing against dairy produce marked GM-free on shop shelves. Centenary Co-op in Thurles has recruited a number of suppliers whose cows are not fed GM animal feed. Figures have also shown that close to 1.7 million tonnes of GM soya and maize were imported last year, accounting for more than half of feed imports.
Mr Bergin said the move to GM-free feedstuff would defend prime markets and also boost expansion.
He acknowledged the biggest issue was the importation of protein elements of rations on non-GM ships.
He said there was no doubt that this would bring added costs for farmers but they hoped to "create more value from it in additional markets and be able to pass that back". He also pointed out the importance of maintaining Ireland's grain industry which delivers non-GM grains.