Opinion: Brussels doublethink on GM crops doesn't add up

Barley has been a very pale colour this year. File Photo
Barley has been a very pale colour this year. File Photo
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

We have started the harvest earlier than ever before, but I'll get to that later; first I am going to mention something topical in tillage farming in Europe.

I understand that the EU make rules, for all our benefit and as farmers, we have to follow these rules. However,I can't for the life of me understand the recent EU court ruling that CRISPR gene editing technology is GM.

I'm no scientist and I'm not going to pretend I understand the details of all the gene editing technology reports that have been published.

However, this ruling will have an impact on tillage farming and crop varieties in the future.

I suggest if you need any further info you go onto some of the European research websites and stay away from the vested interests.

What I also don't understand, is the constant conflict of opinions from both sides regarding GM crops.

We are continually being told, especially on social media, that this technology is somehow bad or ethically wrong, and yet every year both the EU and Ireland are importing millions, yes millions, of tons of feed that is GM into Europe and into Ireland.

So which is it? Is it a safe technology that happens to be feeding millions of animals and humans? Or something that we should be afraid of? Or both?

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Anyway back to the harvest. We started on July 8, which is the earliest we have ever started. We cut Cassia two-row winter barley at 13pc moisture.

It came in at 3.7t per acre, which we are happy with, considering the year we have had. This was followed by six-row winter barley, Bazooka, which was slightly higher in moisture but lower in bushel. It was 60kph with the two-row at 68 kph.

When it was cut, there was an awful lot of chaff and awns still in it. However, when we put it through the dryer and cleaner, it got rid of all the screenings and increased the kph to 67.

The colour of both barleys are very pale and white this year. When I went in to get some tested there were bags of samples from other farmers on the floor and they all looked the same. Actually if you didn't know what they were, you would think they were oats. The last of the barley that was cut, was in a slightly damper spot and when we cut it later, it was a much more normal golden colour.

The same happened with the straw. The first of it was a very pale colour, with some having a slight pink hue. The last of it was a more golden colour.

Oil seed rape

Then we started on the oil seed rape with came in at between 8.4pc and 10pc moisture. I don't have a yield yet, but the seeds themselves look very small. The only way to know how its done is put it over a weigh bridge. Sometimes those small grains can weigh heavy.

We have already spread chicken litter on the ground and stubble cultivated it in.

Its incredible to think how early we are this year, but I do think that the harvest will get drawn out because of the beans, but even they are starting to turn and we are still in the start of August.

The straw market is gone mad. I have heard of crazy prices being asked for - 4x4 round bales at €35 and more, and 8x4x4 at €100.

The next question should be, how much straw is in a bale? We weighed a 4x4 bale and it was 140kg and then weighed an 8X4X4 and it was 460kg. So there are 3.28 of our round bales in a big square bale.

To be fair to farmers on both sides of buying or selling it should be sold by weight. I have also heard of baling contractors having to bring chains and locks into fields to protect straw till they get a chance to take it away. It's a sad day when one farmer would do that to another farmer.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

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