News from Ireland (15/10/2007)

all items via GM-free Ireland:
*Ireland: Evidence should be scrutinised over the safety of GM food
*Ireland: Green ''U-Turn''
*Ireland: Fine Gael emailer comes a GM cropper
*Ireland: Creed slams government on GMs

Ireland: Evidence should be scrutinised over the safety of genetically modified food
Irish Medical News, Letters, 15 October 2007

I welcome the letter from Prof Moses (IMN, 27/8/2007) in relation to the safety of genetically engineered foods. Prof Moses quite rightly questions the validity of scientific experiments that are not peer-reviewed, and in addition, the importance of accurate information when ascertaining the causes of outbreaks of illness.

Unfortunately, information on both of these issues is in short supply. Biotechnology companies rarely allow their studies to be subject to such scrutiny, and as a result, there are only limited data in peer- reviewed journals concerning the safety of GM food, although calls have been made for such studies to be made available in the literature.

While Prof Moses states, ''We must not forget that GM foods have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people for more than a decade without a single confirmed adverse health effect.'' I would like to ask who is checking the absence of adverse health effects?

The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta is reported to have stated that evaluating the public health implications from the inadvertent introduction of StarLinkT corn into the human food supply in the US posed a challenging retrospective task.

The difficulties of this investigation highlight the importance of evaluating the allergic potential of genetically modified foods before they become available for human consumption. This is where feeding trials, or in this case their absence, should be centre stage.

Indeed, one of the conclusions of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on ''Allergenicity of Foods derived from Biotechnology'' in January 2001, stated that post-market surveillance is a valuable tool in the monitoring of adverse effects and long term sequelae of foods derived from biotechnology.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is not undertaking any such surveillance, neither am I aware of such surveillance being undertaken in other countries.

Epigenetics is now coming to the fore. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression that occur without a change in DNA sequence and can complicate the genetic manipulation of plants.

The potential health impacts of genetically enginered food is too serious an issue to ignore any longer. We are guinea pigs in a global experiment, but in which nobody is monitoring the results. The issue is of profound importance; surely feeding trials cannot be too much to ask?

Dr Elizabeth Cullen
Kilcullen, Co. Kildare

Ireland: Green ''U-Turn''
News of the World, 14 October 2007

THE Green Party should put its money where its mouth is, a critic of its GM food policy has claimed.

Labour Agricultural spokesman Sean Sherlock said the Greens are allowing genetically-modified foods into Ireland, contrary to their stated policy.

He said: ''They told us that once in government they would immediately declare Ireland a GM-free zone.''

But Mr Sherlock said that in a cynical U-turn the Greens are now allowing GM animal feed.

Ireland: Fine Gael emailer comes a GM cropper
The Irish Times, 13 October 2007.

It''s a slow day at the office. Then an e-mail lands in the Fianna Fail adviser''s in-box. His eyes light up when he sees the title: ''Briefing Document for Fine Gael.''

He opens the message to find Fine Gael''s new 13-page strategy on the GMO issue has landed in his lap. They sent it to the enemy by mistake.

It begins ''GMOs and Ireland: 10 years of poor FF-led policy.'' The opening paragraph begins thus: ''Since 1997, Fianna Fail governments have repeatedly flip-flopped the issue of GMOs. This recently came to a head on September 28th when Green Party Minister Trevor Sargent dramatically changed stated policy regarding a ''GM-free Ireland'' by stating ''GM free zone is not about banning imported GM feed'' (possible draft Dáil questions, below on pg. 5)''. And on it goes, with page after page of background rebuttal material, full of quotes from Fianna Fail and Green politicians.

Suggested Dáil questions include ones for Trevor Sargent.

''Does Minister Sargent agree that this nation''s food supply is not an issue for party political sound bites but rather political decisions made on the basis of scientifically sound independent advice?''

Lots of examples of previous statements are highlighted before a possible question for Minister Dempsey is offered: ''Did Noel Dempsey, in his programme for government discussions with the Greens, forget the conclusions of his own tax payer-supported public consultations?'' All that hard work for nothing. They''re certainly green in Fine Gael now, but for all the wrong reasons. But Trevor Sargent had an extra pep in his step last week, and they''re still laughing in Fianna Fail.

Forwarned is forearmed.

Comment by GM-free Ireland on the article below - ''Creed slams government on GMs''

COMMENT: What would Michael Collins have thought of a political party ready to surrender Ireland''s food sovereignty by promoting a policy that would rapidy cause all farmers to lose ownership of their seeds and crops?

That''s exactly what would happen if patented GM seed or crops are ever introduced here (including GM rape seeds for use as agrofuel).

The Irish Farmers Journal article about Fine Gael agriculture spokeman Michael Creed suggests that Michael Collins''s party has either fallen hook, line, and sinker for agri-biotech industry propaganda, or has become a propagandist itself. Everone else in Europe knows that rising feed prices are caused by peak oil, climate change and the massive diversion of food crops for the production of agrofuels. They also know that the current mania for agrofuels is backed by the GM industry, as in the $500 million joint venture between Monsanto and BP announced last summer.

Contrary to what Creed implies, the majority of Europeans do not want GM food and farming. His arguments that GM will end world hunger and that we should ''embrace the science'' are standard biotech propaganda (along with his pathetic implication that those who want to keep Ireland GM-free are ''anti-science'').

Readers of the Irish Farmers Journal, which describes itself as the best source of information for Irish farmers, should hold its editors accountable to provide balanced coverage of this controversial issue. The Journal''s total bias in favour of the GM agri-biotech industry, as in the article above, recently led a prominent IFA farmer to describe the publication as ''the Pravda for Agribusiness.''

Ireland: Creed slams government on GMs
By Pat O''Keefe, News Editor
Irish Farmers Journal, 11 October (dated 13 October) 2007

Delays in the European approval for Genetically Modified (GM) crops is [sic] affecting feed prices, with pig and poultry farmers already feeling the effects. Fine Gael''s new spokesman on agriculture, Michael Creed believes that it is time for Ireland to ''get real'' on the GM issue.

Michael Creed believes that, in future, land will have to provide food and fuel, so we need access to the best available technology. ''We need to slay a few sacred cows here,'' he said. ''Many Europeans are speaking from a comfort zone on GM. The ''I''m alright Jack'' attitude is not morally defensible in the face of world hunger,'' he said.

The Fine Gael man added that the notion that Ireland could proclaim itself to be GM free is a myth, as we use genetically modified feeds here. ''My view is that we should embrace the science,'' he said. ''We can''t exclude ourselves from the option of growing the crops.''

He has already sought a Dail debate on the GM issue and has asked the Government to establish a cross-party committee on science and technology.

He said that pig producers in Ireland are now close to breaking point. ''They are cutting slaughter weights and not serving gilts,'' he pointed out. He also highlighted another measure that would help alleviate their plight; the EU and Ireland must address the current labelling anomaly whereby pig-meat can be imported, processed and then labelled as Irish.

''Substantial transformation is a joke, the issue has to be addressed,'' he said. ''If people see the Irish flag, they assume it''s Irish.''

In contrast, Creed is optimistic on the prospects for dairying. He believes there is scope for growth in the dairy industry without sacrificing margins, describing the proposal for a 3% quota increase as ''modest''.

The Fine Gael spokesman on agriculture is under no illusions – he faces a difficult taks to get his message across. The farming organisations are seen as the natural ''opposition'' to the Minister ofr Agriculture, and the national media has a dwindling interest in agriculture policy issues.

However, the Macroom-based TD is currently throwing himself into the role with enthusiasm, consulting with a wide array of interests. He has the advantage that agriculture is central to the economy of his constituency, Cork North-West. He also farmed full-time, from 1985 until his election to the Dail in 1989.

Michael Creed is married to Sinead and they have two children, Ruth, 20 months, and Orla, three months.

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