Feighan slams u-turn on GM feed

A decision by the Minister for Agriculture to do a u-turn on Government policy on GM feed could have bad repercussions for Irish agriculture, according to Fine Gael’s Deputy Frank Feighan.               ‘Fine Gael has continually called for a full debate on GM in agriculture but the Government up to now has persistently refused to engage in one. There is no getting way from the fact that these decisions have huge implications that need to be fully thought through and not developed on a political whim. In 2006, €144.6m worth of animal feed was imported into Ireland, of which 97 percent contained some genetically engineered material. The fact is that the vast majority of imported animal feed now used by Irish farmers has been genetically modified in some manner – we cannot pretend otherwise.             ‘One of the consequences of the Nitrates Directive, which penalises grass-based production systems as we have here in Ireland, is that there will be even greater demand for imported feed in the future. However, despite assurances to the contrary from the Agriculture Minister, the Irish Government decided in June to abstain on an EU vote which has the effect that animal feed companies here will no longer be able to import maize by-products from the US.             ‘I am informed by the Connacht Gold Feed Mill that 800,000 tonnes of maize by-products which are used in the production of animal feed are imported from the US every year. Connacht Gold, like other animal feed companies, is now in the position of having to source replacement ingredients and estimates that this could lead to an additional cost of up to €50 million a year. The knock-on effect on the price of feed and therefore on farmers’ margins is obvious and potentially very damaging.             ‘It is now time for a full debate on the whole GM issue and not off-the-cuff, knee-jerk policy which determines this issue in isolation from the broader and more practical factors which must be considered. Fine Gael believes that the best way to facilitate such a debate is to establish a Dáil Committee on Science and Technology which would, as its first function, facilitate a fully informed debate on GM food, feed and crops and their use or not in this country.             ‘As the Taoiseach has not yet established the Dáil Committees, now is an ideal opportunity to have a specific forum not only to deal with the issue of GM but all other scientific developments which have an impact on society and our economy.             ‘Such a recommendation was made a number of years ago by an all-party Oireachtas committee and a similar committee is in place in many other EU Countries including the UK. It is high time that we have a mechanism to bring facts on scientific developments into the public domain instead of half truths that are spun to the benefit of one side or another.’