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Minister fails to reassure on GM contamination

26 March, 2004


Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, has claimed that Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh has failed to provide reassurances regarding the possibility of contamination of conventional crops if GM varieties are introduced to the Six Counties. Deputy Ferris was responding to the Minister's reply to a question Deputy Ferris placed regarding the decision by the British Government to allow the commercial growing of a GM maize variety and whether the decision would be extended to the north.

Deputy Ferris said: "I am not happy with the Minister's response, part of which states that: 'If this crop is grown in Northern Ireland, the issue is one of coexistence to ensure that it does not contaminate conventional or organic crops grown in this country'. That is a strange formulation given that the Six Counties are part of this country. How would it then be possible to ensure that a GM crop being grown in South Fermanagh, for example, would confine its pollination to one side of the artificial line that separates it from Cavan or Monaghan?

"This again proves Sinn Féin's argument that the only way to ensure that conventional and organic crops in this country are not contaminated by GM is to declare the entire island a GM free zone. We will be pressing the Irish Government to reverse its support for GM, and will be meeting Minister Pearson at Stormont on April 1, to call on him to have the Six Counties designated GM free."

Deputy Ferris Question and Minister's reply:

Question

22. Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will make a statement on the decision by the British Government to allow the commercial growth of GM crops; and if he has consulted with the British Government regarding whether the decision will also apply to the Six Counties. [9072/04]

Answer

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): The recent announcement by the UK Government refers to the approval for the commercial cultivation of the GM herbicide-tolerant maize variety known as Chardon LL, subject to the variety being successful in the application for entry on to the UK national catalogue of approved varieties for marketing. This GM variety was first approved in 1998 for deliberate release within the EU under the then EU Directive 90/220 but Spain was the only member state which registered this GM variety on its national catalogue.

If this crop is grown in Northern Ireland, the issue is one of co-existence to ensure that it does not contaminate conventional or organic crops grown in this country. In formulating new EU legislation on GM crops and GM food, the Commission with agreement from the European Parliament and the Council decided that the issue of the coexistence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops should be addressed at member state level under a series of guidelines. As a result all member states, including Ireland and the UK, are currently in the process of drawing up strategies and best practices to ensure effective coexistence.

To establish the appropriate measures necessary for Irish farming practices and farming conditions an interdepartmental and interagency working group has been established within the Department of Agriculture and Food and has been given the task of: identifying and evaluating the issues and implications for crop production in Ireland that would arise from the cultivation of GM crops; and developing proposals for a national strategy and best practices to ensure the co-existence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming.

This working group, as part of its work programme, proposes to meet and discuss with relevant stakeholders in the preparation of its recommendations on the strategies and best practices for coexistence. These discussions will include the Northern Ireland authorities with particular reference to their coexistence strategies.

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