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Sinn Féin call for urgent debate on keeping Ireland 'GM free'

29 July, 2003

"We must hear the public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free"

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin Sinn Féin Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh and Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald called for an urgent debate on GM food and crops and issued a call to keep Ireland 'GM free'.

Deputy Ferris, who will meet with the three farm organisations over the summer, to get their opinion on Genetic Engineering said:

"Since legislation on the regulation of genetically modified food and feed was passed at the start of July by the European Parliament, along with further passing of co-existence guidelines which wish to prohibit national or regional governments in banning the use of Genetically Modified Organisms, the European Union has rolled over to the threats of the US and the profit hungry GM companies.

"The legislation allows for the sale of GM food products once it is labelled for GM content above 0.9%. The way will now also be open to grow GM crops although there may be some scope to allow member states to prevent the growing of such crops in specific zones. It is vital that a full public debate takes place in this country and that all of the issues surrounding GM are aired.

"In a written reply to a parliamentary question by me on Tuesday 17 June Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh stated that he does not have any proposals to initiate a formal public consultation. This is a typical of a Minister who is out of touch with public opinion, and an arrogant denial of the right of Irish People to have their say in whether they want to consume Genetically Modified Food.

"Irish farmers are also being denied the opportunity to voice their opinion. This debate must take place on an Island wide basis; this island cannot allow one part to opt for Genetically Modified Crops or Food, while the other part abstains. Cross contamination of hybrid plants and crops could contaminate the whole island.

"We need to look at the future of the Irish agriculture industry and the potential of selling and marketing Irish food as safe and environmentally friendly. WE also need a real assessment of the economics of GM crops, particularly for a small country that exports 80% of what we produce. We must hear our public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free.

"We must expose the myth that GM increases agricultural productivity. Research from the United States proves that the main GM crop, Roundup Ready soya has up to 11% lower yield than non-GM soya. A Soil Association report, Seeds of Doubt concluded that GM crops have led to lower yields, greater dependency on herbicides and pesticides, a loss of markets and lower productivity for farmers in the US.

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