GM-free dairy poses 'complex' questions for Irish producers
Glanbia warned the industry must be certain that the move towards GM-free dairy is a long-term trend rather than a fad as it involves significant cost.
There have been moves on the German market which is a key buyer of Kerrygold butter towards Genetically Modified free labelling.
Sean Molloy, Glanbia Ireland's director of strategy, said GM-free was becoming quite apparent as a "requirement" in some continental European markets, particularly Germany.
He said it was being studied carefully by Glanbia and at industry level.
"It is very complex in the supply chain to achieve the level of tolerance that would be required for GM-free," he said.
Mr Molloy stressed they were keen to be able to respond to customer requirements. It follows their move towards the marketing of their Truly Grass Fed brand in the US which operates to different standards of GM-free.
Mr Molloy said they would not be "found wanting" if GM-free dairy is what is required to satisfy key markets.
"Ornua have a significant presence in Germany with the Kerrygold brand and they'll be acutely aware of the trend within that market there.
"Ornua are a very significant outlet for Glanbia as we have a 25pc shareholding in Ornua.
"We manufacture a lot of butter that goes into the German Kerrygold product, so for us it is very important that we closely, and in partnership with Ornua, address any challenge that they may have in the market," he said.
"One thing we have to be very sure of is that the trend is not just a fad and it would last for a period of time that would warrant the significant change that we require to deliver on it," he said.
He pointed out the GM-free levels that are required for the German market mean that the whole supply chain must be subject to rigorous audit. "From the ships that bring that feed in to the storage, to the manufacture and distribution, it all has to be very open to audit and has to be perfectly within the tolerance required. That is complex."
He said it would also be complex on dairy farms that were carrying other stock.
"To understand if we are going to go this direction that there is value for all elements of the supply chain, including the farmers, if we require this.
"To be able to demonstrate to our customers that we have clarity in terms of all of the inputs on our farm allows us to have long-term transactions," he said.
"Our customers are happy we have that visibility."
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