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Bird Flu lessons must be learnt quickly

9 February, 2007


Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that a number of key lessons must be taken on board quickly in order to protect Ireland from Bird Flu and similar disease outbreaks that have devastated the local farming industry.

Ms Gildernew said:

"It is becoming clear that the fundamental issue is that there is a weakness
in testing both in processing facilities and crucially in relation to food
imports.

"As a society and certainly within the agricultural industry we need to
ensure that whether produce is imported from Hungry or Brazil that we can
ensure the same high standards that exist for local produce are maintained
in terms of food safety, traceability, testing.

"It is unsustainable to have a situation where there are very high standards
for local produce yet not nearly the same degree of certainty over imported
produce, whether it is from within other EU countries such as Hungry or from
further a field.

"Countries including Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, South Africa and
Jersey all imposing bans on the importation of British poultry also sends
out a very strong message to the local poultry industry. That having our
produce identified as 'British' is bad for the industry. It was the same
with the BSE crisis and foot-and-mouth.

"Sinn Féin have consistently argued that we need to break free from the UK
farming framework because it is bad for our industry. Instead we should
build on the clean green internationally recognised Irish brand.

"People in Ireland deserve high quality safe produce. Given wider concerns
about the environment I also believe that we need to again assess the need
to further support and enhance the capacity of the agriculture industry to
meet the needs of Irish people. Whether the issue is food safety or air
miles a dependence, particularly of the processing industry, on cheap low
quality imports could be catastrophic." ENDS


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