Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Government's GM policy is 'bizarre' claim scientists

Agriculture committee opposed to EU proposals to loosen GM controls

Andrew Doyle, chairman of the Agriculture Committee
Andrew Doyle, chairman of the Agriculture Committee
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The Irish Government's stance on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been slammed by some of the country's top agriculturalists.

The Agricultural Committee chairman, Andrew Doyle, stated that his committee would not be supporting an EU proposal to loosen the controls on GMOs because they believed that the move could "excessively increase the presence of GMOs within the EU food-chain".

"The agricultural heritage of Ireland has traditionally been non-GMO based and the Committee is apprehensive of Commission proposals which may impinge on this," he added.

However, the stance has been branded another retrograde step by UCD's professor of crop science, Jimmy Burke.

"Europe has gone backwards over the last 10 years, and the situation in Ireland is only getting worse," he said.

"We're losing pesticide active ingredients all the time, and if we are serious about changing the plant production model, we need to be looking at genetics. I just cannot see the economic advantage of Ireland's position. There's never been an issue with GM technology, it's got a long safety record, and it makes farming easier," he said.

One of the committee's main concerns was what they referred to as the "very restrictive" criteria on which a Member State could object to the entry of a GMO product into its country.

It also noted its scepticism about who would really benefit from the liberalisation of GMOs, citing the possibility of larger corporations exploiting and controlling markets.

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It also concluded that GMO production flourished in low-income economies.

"The expansion of GMO products across the EU may damage European economies by lowering the economic value of production.

Increased yields of crops with the assistance of GMO materials could severely damage the indigenous grain industry in Ireland as such crops are generally much cheaper to produce," it said.

The stance, which will dictate Ireland's position in up-coming EU votes was dismissed as nonsensical by Dublin farm advisor, Richard Hackett.

"This is a completely anti-science stance that flies in the face of what the agri sector as a whole in Ireland wants. It's a completely retrograde step that is in the opposite direction that our nearest neighbours in Britain are going," said Dr Hackett.

"To claim that GM technology only suits low income countries is bizarre to say the least, and the idea that Ireland can protect its grain farmers by preventing them from accessing seeds that will allow them to grow cheaper grain is just silly."

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