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World Trade talks could ruin future of agriculture

30 May, 2008

Discussions currently taking place at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva could have disastrous consequences for farming in the North, Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA said today.

She hit out at the line being taken by Peter Mandelson, the EU Commissioner, and said it could lead to the WTO introducing rules which would be extremely damaging to the farming industry here, particularly as it is faced with a number of difficult issues at the present time.

The minister said:

"I do not support the UK position on these talks and have recently written in the strongest terms to Mr Hilary Benn, the British Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs re-emphasising the importance of agriculture in this region and pointing out that any steps taken on foot of the representations made by his Government should keep this fact in mind. There is a need for balance in the negotiations and a will to protect European agriculture so that it is in a position to provide a secure supply of top quality produce for the future.

"It is my intention to champion the cause of the local farmer at every opportunity. I will work closely with the Dublin Government and my colleague Brendan Smith to have a collective approach on behalf of farmers across the island.

"I have also asked that the Executive members raise my concerns with Gordon Brown to give the issue added emphasis. In addition I am urging all agriculture spokespersons to make their voice heard in defence of farmers so that they are not put in an even more difficult position because of agreements over which we have little direct control." ENDS

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