|Ireland: Resistance to GM cereals slammed by Teagasc (6/9/2007)|
NOTE: The references to "Teagasc" here are to the Irish Government's Agriculture and Food Authority.
Comment from GM-free Ireland:
At the annual National Future of Food Forum on "Re-connecting Farming, Food and Rural Communities" hosted by the leading chefs organisation, Euro-Toques Ireland, last Sunday, GM-free Ireland spokesperson Michael O'Callaghan said Teagasc's abuse of public funds to misinform farmers about GM crops was a disgrace, and called on the Minister for Food and Horticulture Trevor Sargent to hold those responsible to account.
Teagasc can not be trusted on GMO issues because it has abused millions of euro of Irish taxpayer's funding to misinform farmers about GM crops. Its http://www.gmoinfo.ie website proclaimed as the government's official "Information Centre for GM crops in Ireland" appeared to have been designed by Monsanto's spin doctors. The web site touted GM crops with no mention whatsoever of the growing scientific evidence of cross-contamination, crop failures, patent infringement lawsuits, GM superweeds, health and environmental risks, and loss of market share. The contents of the web site were recently cleaned out after GM-free Ireland exposed the misinformation. The main Teagasc website at http://www.teagasc.ie still features numerous pages containing highly biased information in favour of GM crops.
The patented GM maize variety Herculex, mentioned in the above article, was discovered by GM-free Ireland and Greenpeace in a 12,000 tonne shipment of US animal feed aboard a ship in Dublin port in April. Despite the fact that Herculex is illegal in the EU, up to 5,313 tonnes of this contamined feed was subsequently sold to Irish farmers and allowed to enter the Irish food chain. See http://www.gmfreeireland.org/pakrac/index.php
That shipment was imported by R&H Hall. Although their spokesman Matt Brazill claimed the cargo contained no GM ingredients while it was being unloaded, he also said his company could supply any amount of certified non-GMO animal feed if Irish farmers want it.
There is no doubt that certified non-GMO soya is widely available for a minimal extra cost of around 0.1 per kg, which can easily be recouped via higher premia on offer from leading supermarkets. For details, see Michael O'Callaghan's cover story on GM feed in the 26 July edition of the Irish Examiner farm supplement: http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/2007/july.php#moc.
The timing of Teagasc's attack on the Government's GM-free policy follows yesterday's conference jointly organised by the Animal and Plant Health Association (APHA) and the Irish Farmers Association at Dublin airport, where vociferous objections were made against EC proposals to restrict the use of "plant protection products" (i.e. toxic weedkillers, insecticides and fungicides) and "new plant protection products" (including GM plants that produce their own pesticides). GM seeds are patented by the same transnational agribusiness-biotech corporations (Monsanto, Bayer CropsScience, Pioneer/Dow, Syngenta, etc) that manufacture the unwanted chemicals, and that use GM crop patents to prevent farmers from saving and planting their own seeds. (See next two articles below.) These powerful GM and chemical farming giants would like to sabotage the consumer-driven global trend towards more environmentally safe, sustainable and organic farming.
Ireland has a competitive advantage over its EU counterparts in relation to phasing our the use of GM animal feed. Because our cattle and sheep farming is mostly grass-based, animal feed compounds constitute only around 7% of their total diet. Less than half of this 7% consists of soya and maize products, where the GM ingredients come in. The shift towards GM-free animal feed would thus require far less change in Ireland than elsewhere in the EU. Coupled with our clean food island branding, world famous green image, and geographical isolation from potential contamination by wind-borne GM pollen, phasing out GM animal feed would give Irish meat, poultry and dairy produce the most credible safe GM-free food branding in the EU.
Irish farming organisations and policy makers interested in exploring this strategy should participate in the forthcoming Conference on "Non GM Feedstuff, Quality Production, and European Agriculture's Strategy", co-hosted by EU Committee of the Regions and the European GMO-Free Regions Network on 5-6 December in Brussels: http://www.gmofree-euregions.net
The GMO-free Regions Network includes 39 Regional Governments in Austria, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK. Over ten regions in Austria, France, Italy, and Spain have already committed themselves to this approach. Preliminary meetings have been held with the EC, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, AER, CRPM, AREPO, COPA-COGECA and with Brazilian players of the entire sector, and the project is going full steam ahead. The European Commission's Directorates-General for Agriculture, Health and Consumer Protection, Development and Trade have also agreed to participate.
The Regions are phasing out GM animal feed to provide value-added production, to preserve competitive and high-quality agriculture in the context of the globalisation of food markets, and thus boost the sustainability of local rural communities. These regional governments are demanding a special status for quality agriculture which recognises its role in space management, environmental protection, and the strengthening of local communities, and wants all the European Regions to support this strategy in the mid-term review of the CAP in 2008 and its revision in 2013.
Ireland: Resistance to GM cereals slammed
Professor Jimmy Burke, who is head of the Crops Research Centre at Oak Park, claimed that the Government's stance on GM crop varieties was undermining the viability of whole sectors within Irish agriculture.
"This policy is anti-competitive and doomed to failure. Only sourcing non-GM material is an unrealistic approach and we need to sit up and take notice of this," Professor Burke insisted.
He maintained that Ireland's decision to abstain earlier this year in a key vote at EU level on the maize variety, Herculex, had serious implications.
As Herculex had failed to secure EU approval, European feed importers had been forced to pay inflated prices for scarce supplies of non-GM material.
The Teagasc specialist said the implications for the pig and poultry sectors were particularly serious, since half the protein requirement for both industries was sourced in the US.
"If we are saying we don't want GM material, then this is a serious issue because, in the not too distant future, people won't be able to get non-GM feed stocks," he said.
He also questioned the assertion that consumers were willing to pay a premium for the meat from animals which have been fed non-GM feed.
He pointed out that studies carried out in a number of countries had found that supermarkets were not willing to pass on to consumers the additional feed costs associated with using non-GM material.
Meanwhile, feed importers now fear that shipments of corn gluten and corn distillers will be disrupted again this autumn, because the US maize crop, which is due to be harvested in a month's time, includes another GM variety which has not been approved in Europe.
The variety, which is called Agrisure, makes up just 1-2pc of total plantings. However, importers are unwilling to bring in shipments of the new crop in case traces of this particular variety are found in the shipments.
Since Agrisure is not approved in the EU, any consignments in which it is identified would have to be destroyed or shipped back to the port of origin or to a third country.
Matt Brazil of feed importers, Halls, said that, as a consequence, most importers would not be willing to take a chance on a shipment of new crop maize from the US.
He said this would create further upward pressure on feed prices.
Meanwhile, Mr. Brazil said farmers will face massive increases in feed costs this winter. He pointed out that the main constituents in compound feed had doubled in price since this time last year.