Thursday, 8 December 2005
Department of Agriculture and Food
Genetically Modified Organisms
The level of interest by Irish farmers in growing genetically modified crops would be determined by, among other factors, the range of GM crops available for sowing and their suitability for Irish conditions. Currently, the only genetically modified crops which are on the EU common catalogue of plant varieties and thereby authorised for cultivation on an EU-wide basis are a series of GM maize varieties which are resistant to the European cornborer. These particular crops are of little or no interest to Irish farmers as the cornborer is not an indigenous pest here. However, in the event that other GM varieties are developed that would confer an economic advantage to Irish agriculture and if they were to be authorised for cultivation within the EU, undoubtedly such varieties will be evaluated and their cultivation here considered. GM potato varieties with resistance to late blight and oilseed rape varieties with higher oil content are in development internationally and these and others might be of interest to Irish farmers in the medium term, should they be approved for cultivation.
The growing of GM crops is determined by EU legislation adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. This legislation, which is binding on all member states, stipulates that EU farmers should be able to engage in the production types they wish, be it conventional, organic or GM, provided they do not impose a necessity on neighbouring farmers to change their established production types. This brings in the concept of co-existence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops. Creating conditions for co-existence means making it possible for conventional and organic farmers to keep the adventitious presence of GMOs in their crops below the labelling thresholds established in Community law, while ensuring that farmers, who want to grow authorised GM crops, have a reasonable opportunity to do so.
In August 2003 an interdepartmental group, which comprised representatives of the Departments of Agriculture and Food and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Teagasc and the EPA, was established to examine issues relating to co-existence and draw up rules for co-existence arrangements in Ireland.
I have recently received and examined the group's reports and recommendations. The report takes on board the full range of factors surrounding the GM issue: the principles laid down in the Commission guidelines on GM co-existence; Government policy on GMOs; scientific issues; new developments in GM technology; the Irish crop production system and farm infrastructure; and liability. While the group engaged extensively with identified stakeholders, I have decided, in order to allow all concerned put forward their views on the proposed arrangements for co-existence, to place the report on my Department's website and invite further observations on the recommendations in the report. I will take all such observations into account before putting in place co-existence arrangements in Ireland, as is required under EU legislation.