Seanad debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters (Resumed)

Road Tolls

2:30 pm

Photo of Pippa HackettPippa Hackett (Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Boyhan for raising this matter. In Ireland more than 80% of animal feed for ruminants is provided by grass, hay and silage, complemented where appropriate by compound feeds. From an animal feed perspective, the pig, poultry and dairy sectors in particular rely on high-protein feed rations that are primarily made up of soya bean and maize by-products. Ireland has a limited capacity to grow certain protein crops and is therefore more dependent on feed imports relative to other EU member states. Climatic conditions in Ireland are traditionally not suited to the cultivation of soya bean although improvements in crop breeding and the availability of new varieties may change that. Therefore we are particularly dependent on the global market for supplies of high-quality vegetable protein.

Total annual feed production in 2021 was 5.4 million tonnes, an increase of 6% on the previous year, of which 1.3 million tonnes was home-grown, mainly cereals. In 2021 4.1 million tonnes of feed material was imported which was a reduction of 3% compared to 2020. Of the 4.1 million tonnes imported, approximately 75% is sourced from third countries, mainly Argentina, the USA, the UK, Canada, Brazil and, historically, Ukraine. Significant quantities of maize and oilseed rape meal are also imported from EU member states.

Some 2.3 million tonnes of imported feed from third countries was genetically modified, representing 42% of the total animal feed production. The main genetically modified feeds imported are maize and maize by-products, soya bean meal and soya hulls. More than 1 million tonnes of this imported genetically modified feed was maize or maize by-products, distillers dry grains and maize gluten feed. Approximately 800,000 tonnes was soya bean and soya meal.

These consignments are imported from genetically modified, GM, producing regions especially in the USA, Argentina, Brazil, and Canada. It is important to the Irish agriculture industry, especially the sectors requiring rations with high-protein content, that there is a consistent supply of quality feed that is not subject to delays as there is limited scope for alternative protein substitution from home or from EU-grown high-protein crops.

In terms of the use of genetically modified organisms, GMOs, in feed, the reality is that the feed materials containing GM make up the bulk of the market and provide the lowest cost source of proteins for feed manufacturers to use in their products. It should be borne in mind that there is a significant additional cost of approximately €60 to €100 per tonne for non-GM feed which can leave livestock production in Ireland at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries that have the capacity to produce soya and other protein crops. This price differential would have a trickle-down effect on the overall feed prices which have already seen significant rises since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

The EU has a legislative framework in place for the authorisation of feed products consisting of, or containing, genetically modified ingredients on the markets of member states. Only GM feed that has been authorised by the EU can be placed on that market. All applications for authorisation by the EU to place feed products consisting of, or containing, genetically modified ingredients on the markets of member states are considered individually.

Government policy is positive but precautionary on biotechnology and a common voting position is adopted by Ireland for food and feed on the basis of a favourable opinion from the European Food Safety Authority and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Advance notification of feed imports is a legal requirement and imports containing GM are notified accordingly. My Department carries out risk-based analysis and testing for the presence of authorised and non-authorised GM in feed imports.


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