Latest developments on Ireland's GMO-free zone policy
On 27 February 2012, Teagasc (the Irish Government Agriculture and Food Authority) announced its intention to conduct a field trial of GMO potatoes at Oak Park in County Carlow. More. If the EPA provides consent for this experiment to go ahead, it will be the first field trial of a GMO crop on the island of Ireland since 1998, when a previous experiment by Teagasc was terminated by activists.
In October 2009 after seven years of lobbying by the GM-free Ireland Network the Fianna Fáil / Green Party coalition Government adopted a policy) which promised to "Declare the Republic of Ireland a GM-Free Zone, free from the cultivation of all GM plants", and states "To optimise Ireland's competitive advantage as a GM-Free country, we will introduce a voluntary GM-Free logo for use in all relevant product labelling and advertising, similar to a scheme recently introduced in Germany." But the Government failed to implement the policy with legislation.
On 8 February 2011, following the Green Party's resignation from the Government (and intense propaganda and lobbying by the USA, the agri-biotech and animal feed cartels), the Fianna Fáil Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith (who blocked implementation of the policy while the Greens were in Government), issued a press release announcing that Ireland now (a) supports an extremely controversial EC request to scrap the EU zero tolerance food safety policy re. contamination of the food chain with unapproved / untested GMOs, and (b) will henceforth vote in favour of approving new GM feed and food in the EU without mentioning any change to the agreed policy to ban GM crops and introduce a voluntary GM-free label.
The current Fine Gael / Labour coalition government appears to be in favour of cultivating GM crops in Ireland.
• GM-free Irish label good for business:
Added value, increased market share, better branding and unique selling point: the most credible GM-free food brand in Europe.
GM-free Ireland Network press release, 17 November 2009.
• Video: GM-free food production: a unique selling point for Ireland - the food island: 17 November 2009 press conference on the business case for Ireland's GM-free label, with Richard Corrigan (Michelin star chef and TV host), Darina Allen (Slow Food Ireland, Good Food Ireland, Free Choice Consumer Group, Artisan Food Forum, and the Farmers Market movement), Malcolm Thompson (Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association), Evan Doyle (the Taste Council, Organic Trust and Euro-Toques Ireland), Dr. John Fagan (Cert ID), and Michael O'Callaghan (GM-free Ireland). See below:
• Non-GMO crops in India:
Conference on the benefits, advantages and contributions to India's international soya and grain trade, food security and farmers' value, New Delhi, 16-17 March 2010.
If the subject of GM food and farming is new to you, watch the 4-minute "World's Greatest Scam" video below to get the picture. Download our briefing papers to find out more, and keep an eye on our daily GM news page.
The World Trade Organisation, the US Government and the global agri-biotech / commodity trade lobby don't want Ireland to implement its GM-free policy with legislation.
Please Join us and learn what you can do to get involved and make a difference, for as Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world".
Declare your area as GMO-free zone
A very good way to help is by lobbying your Town or County Council to pass this GMO-free zone motion. Unlike other EU Member States, the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly do not yet recognise the validity of GMO-free zones declared by Local Authorities, but their existence strengthens the legal case for the EC to accept a ban on GM crops on this island. The following Local Authorities have already declared their areas as GMO-free zones: Cavan, Clare, Fermanagh, Kildare, Kerry, Meath, Roscommon, Monaghan, and Westmeath, the District of Newry & Mourne in counties Armagh and Down, the towns of Bantry, Bray, Clonakilty, Cork, Derry, Galway City, Letterkenny, and Navan, and 1,000 smaller areas representing over 1 million citizens on this island. 22 EU Member States, 260 EU Regions, and 4,500 municipalities and other local entities also ban or restrict GM crops: see GMO-free zones in Europe.
Global consumer rejection of GM food: a business opportunity for Ireland
Most EU consumers and retailers want GM-free food, and Ireland can produce alot of it more cost-effectively and credibly than our competitors: press release and briefing (1.2MB pdf).
Thousands of EU and USA food brands and retailers offer GM-free product lines as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, Quality Agriculture, Biodiversity, Food Safety, Fair Trade, Sustainable Development and Climate Change strategies. Ireland is a major dairy producer and the biggest beef exporter in the Northern Hemisphere. Our cattle and sheep eat a grass-based diet, with less GM feed than livestock in many other countries. Although unlabelled, most of our poultry - and some of our pork and farmed salmon - is already GM-free.
This lead start - along with our world-class beef traceability system, GM-free island status, geographical isolation from contamination by GM pollen, unpolluted topsoil, and clean green image - provides a big untapped competitive advantage for us. Farmers, food producers and tourist operators who choose the voluntary GM-free label and supply chain can transform this advantage into a unique selling point for Ireland: the most credible GM-free food brand in Europe.
Consumers International says NO to GMOs
Consumer organisations around the world called for a ban on GM foods on World Consumer Rights Day 2005. The event was organised by Consumers International, representing over 250 organisations in 115 countries (including the Consumers' Association of Ireland). Member organisations lobbied governments, held public meetings and street demonstrations to demand GM-free food and secure GM-free areas with strict rules to prevent contamination of conventional and organic crops, and independent safety testing and safety guidelines for all foods containing or derived from GMOs.
No market for GM labelled food in Europe
Back in January 2005, Greenpeace published a detailed report showing that the EU market
for GM labelled food products was virtually closed. Europe's top 30 retailers and top 30 food & drink producers already had policies and non-GM commitments which reveal the massive international food industry rejection of GM ingredients. This cuts across the industry from food and drink manufacturers to retailers, and includes everything from snacks and ready meals to pet food and beer. The combined total food and drink sales of the 49 companies with a stated non-GM policy in their main market or throughout the EU (27 retailers and 22 food and drink producers) amounted to €646 billion, more than 60% of the total €1,069 billion European food and drink sales. Irish food companies doing business internationally need to implement a non-GM policy without delay. Download report (2MB PDF file).
EuroNews: Resistance to GM food prior to the 2009 EU Parliament elections: "It will be important for Europe to speak with one voice on this to face the US and our WTO partners." transcript
Irish public opinion: Surveys by Eurobarometer, Consumers International, the Irish Times / Ireland.Com, NewsTalk 106, Teagasc, and the Irish Institute for Bioethics show the vast majority of Irish people oppose GM food and don't trust safety claims by FSAI and EFSA. 98% of respondents want all foods containing GM ingredients to be clearly labeled. 78% do not trust scientists and government organisations to provide factual information!
Interview with Prof Patrick Wall
former Chairman of the European
Food Safety Authority
In this candid video interview, Prof Wall admits people have lost confidence in EFSA's GM risk assessment process. He says: "GM food has no benefits for
consumers... EFSA is a consumer protection agency; it is not meant to rubberstamp biotech dossiers... We live in a democracy... Do we want corporate giants to own the food chain?... We
cannot force-feed European citizens products they don't want..." video • transcript • press release
The Green Ireland Conference on branding for farming, food and eco-tourism
Kilkenny Castle • June 2006
With Vandana Shiva, Percy Schmeiser, Deborah Koons Garcia and Benedikt Haerlin
Delegates from America, Asia and Europe attending this conference gave a strong warning that Ireland's world famous clean green image which provides a competitive advantage for our food, farm, and tourism industries would soon be lost if the Irish government and the Irish Farmers Association fail to resist pressure from the WTO and the European Commission to force the release of GM animal feed, seeds, crops, trees, fish and livestock here.
The event provided a historic opportunity for Irish policy makers and stakeholders to meet with key international experts to explore our democratic participation, legal rights and responsibilities for the future of food and farming and Ireland's brand recognition in a globalising world. Proceedings, photos, and press release.
GM crops contaminate the global food chain, causing economic losses, market shut-downs, and lawsuits.
GM chaos and desperation in Canada
Canada is the world's second biggest producer of GM crops. Contamination makes it difficult or impossible to grow conventional and organic crops. Farmers face patent infringement lawuits after their fields become
contaminated. In 1996 Percy Schmeiser fought back. Monsanto claimed the profits from his entire crop, a patent royalty charge, plus a million dollars in court costs. The Supreme Court of Canada
dismissed Monsanto's financial demands but ruled that contaminated farmers no longer own their seeds and crops!
In 2003, Canada (along with the USA and Argentina) filed a WTO trade dispute against the EU for suspending approvals of GM products, and for national bans on EC-approved GM crops in six EU member states. In 2006, the WTO rejected most of the arguments, conceding that national bans are justifiable subject to risk assessment.
In 2006, Shane Morris, an Irish citizen employed by the Canadian Government agency Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, began harassing Irish citizens, politicians and organisations which report and/or support GM-free policies, including GM-free Ireland, An Taisce (the National Trust for Ireland), the Ireland Funds, Bord Bía (the Irish Food Board), and RTE (the state-owned TV and radio broadcaster). In 2007, Morris threatened GM-free Ireland and GM Watch with defamation lawsuits after we reported that a pro-GM "scientific" paper co-authored by Morris had been widely discredited as a "flagrant fraud." Irish Senators David Norris, Dan Boyle, Deirdre de Burca, Pearse Doherty, and Phil Prendergast asked the Leader of the Senate to request the Government to formally intervene to stop "the extraordinary interference by an agent of the Canadian Government in political discourse in this country". In the UK, 26 British MPs including the former UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons deploring "the continuing efforts by an employee of the Canadian Government, Shane Morris, to close down websites in the UK and Republic of Ireland which have, along with Dr Richard Jennings of Cambridge University, said that research which claimed that consumers prefer GM sweetcorn published by this employee and others and given an Award for Excellence, is a flagrant fraud." GM Watch subsequently became the target of repeated cyber attacks which destroyed its web site and forced it temporarily offline. Morris is currently studying "Science Communication" as a PhD student under Dr. Charlie Spillane at the Biochemistry Department & Biosciences Institute, University College Cork. See his spin profile.
In 2009, Canadian flax (linseed) exports to Europe were shut down after Triffid GM flax, which had been grown illegally in Canada since 2001, contaminated the food chain in 30 countries (including Ireland).
The Canadian Government has been internationally condemned for failing to conduct a health risk assessment before it approved the release of SmartStax GM maize, despite the fact that Codex international food safety guidelines clearly state that "stacked" GM traits can lead to unintended effects and should be subject to a full safety assessment.
How we stopped BASF from releasing 450,000 GM potatoes in 2006
In 2006, the GM-free Ireland Network successfully lobbied the Irish Government and Meath County Council to prevent the world's largest chemicals company BASF from conducting a field trial involving a massive release of GMO potatoes near the Hill of Tara.
We called a press conference with supportive politicians, mobilised stakeholders for a national protest, and made numerous submissions pointing out the dangers of the experiment to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA then gave a provisional consent to BASF which included obligations for the company to reduce the risk of cross-contamination of neighbouring farmers and wildlife by installing a high-security fence, and to pay the costs of an independent monitoring of health and environmental impacts. BASF complained that such conditions had not been imposed for similar experiments in Sweden.
Meath County Council then delared the county as a GMO-free zone, stated its refusal to re-zone the land from agricultural to industrial use (since the cultivation of transgenic potatoes not authorised for animal feed or food does not conform with the normal definition of agriculture), and said it would not provide planning permission for the fence. The Council and other parties also said they would take the case to the High Court for an Order to block the experiment under Section 160 of the Planning Development Act 2000 and on a range of Constitutional grounds. An Taisce (the National Trust for Ireland), said this would trigger a lengthy legal procedure that would effectively prevent the release of GMO crops in Meath for the foreseeable future. Days later, BASF abandoned the project, and the company CEO Hans Kast, who also chairs the biotech lobby Europa-Bio, announced that all the European countries which oppose GM food and crops should "get out of the EU!" • Press release • details • media coverage
The GM-free Ireland Network
Protect our food and farming future
The GM-free Ireland Network (GMFI) is an association of individuals and organisations collaborating to keep the whole island of Ireland free of genetically modified (GM) animal feed, seeds, trees, crops, livestock, fish and food.
We have the largest number and the broadest diversity of stakeholder groups of any NGO on this island. Our 130 organisational members (and the populations of the 18 counties and towns which have declared themselves to be GMO-free zones - i.e. off limits to field trials and cultivation of all GM crops) represent over 1 million citizens. Our members include farmers, foresters, food producers, food distributors and exporters, leading chefs and restaurants, NGOs, professional associations, doctors, economists, lawyers, journalists, students, and consumers.
We hold the Irish and UK governments accountable to protect their citizens by prohibiting the environmental release of GMOs on this island.
Joining our Network provides a powerful way to support this campaign. Membership is free of charge and open to individuals, businesses and organisations. Please help with your financial support.