Leading chef and TV presenter Clodagh McKenna, will join people from the Irish food, farming, conservation and human rights sectors in Dublin today to raise awareness about the inherent dangers of new moves to allow a relaxing of laws in relation to genetically modified food and feed into Ireland. These major changes are occurring in the final days of the Fianna Fáil Government, as Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith heads to Brussels tomorrow Tuesday 22nd for a vote which will have far reaching implications for Ireland’s future in Food.
“This GM lobby is the Anglo-Irish Bank of the food sector, capable of derailing a market that is thriving, expanding and vital to Ireland’s recovery and it should be an election issue”, said Clare
O’Grady Walshe, Board Member of Irish Seed Savers Association, food spokesperson for Afri, and a member of the 2009 Green Enterprise Task Force.
“The food and agricultural sector is worth €16.6 billion to our economy – that’s 8% of GDP – employs 150,000 people directly and 250,000 in the wider economy, and supports 128,000 family farms”, said O’Grady Walshe. The Minister’s previous trip to Brussels on February 8th saw him reverse a policy of abstention on the GMO issue, and voting for Monsanto’s GM maize and cotton proposals. During his next trip to Brussels on Tuesday Feb 22nd he proposes to vote for the lifting of the zero-tolerance rule on GMO release in relation to food and feed ingredients, even though legal challenges are already being prepared against the Commission by Luxembourg and Germany(one of Ireland’s most important export destinations for food)
“This is about democracy and accountability as much as it is about issues of irreversible contamination, dubious scientific review, risk assessment and liability”, said Richard Auler, one of Ireland’s best known and longest established organic growers, who called for a five-year moratorium on GMOs, and the proper enactment of the precautionary principle in line with European Environmental Agency guidelines.
“Ireland has the capacity to feed not just itself but a Europe, more than 60% of whose consumers have consistently voted for GM-FREE food – that’s 514,000,000 people, and that is the market that Ireland is best placed to serve”, according to Michael Ewing, Coordinator of the Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership.
“This view is endorsed by last week’s report from the EU” according to Myrtle Allen, founder of Ballymaloe House and co-founder of Euro-Toques, which represents 3,500 chefs across Europe, whose International AGM is being held in Cavan today and has sent a ringing endorsement to today’s call for a GMO free future for Ireland’s food, and farming livelihoods.
“The EU report finds that Ireland is the most environmentally efficient of the EU-27, which is acknowledged by leading farming observers as a huge marketing opportunity to Ireland”, said Myrtle Allen.
“It is this growing love of food and food culture that is such an exciting opportunity for Ireland right now”, said, chef and best selling food writer and TV presenter Clodagh McKenna.
The CEO of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, ICA , John O’ Callaghan outlined their organisation’s vision for “back to basics” and endorsement of the Love Irish Food Campaign, stressing the importance to community and country of building Ireland as clean green food island.
Grace Maher of IOFGA added that Minister Smith’s decision, shows serious disregard for Irish Consumers. “ We need to ensure that farmers produce what consumers want to eat, and the majority of European and Irish consumers want their food GM-free, said Ms. Maher.
“Our business represents one of Ireland’s most valuable resources, and artisan foods, like our farmhouses cheeses are taking centre stage in a burgeoning export market in this sector”, according to Kevin Sheridan representing the Farmhouse Cheese Community and Vice-Chair of Ireland’s Taste Council.
“Discerning tourists looking for the authentic ecotourism experience are hardly likely to look for meat fed on GMOs”, said John Brennan Chairperson of Western Organic Network and Greenbox Ecotourism Initiative, speaking at the press conference.
Anita Hayes, the founder of the Irish Seed Savers Association, referred to the importance of recent UN work on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report carried out by 1300 leading scientists from 95 countries as part of the interim report on the Millennium Development Goals.
“This report recognises two important things which the Irish people are now automatically recovering through the revival in growing their own food and movements for local self-sufficiency. It recognises 1. that “the attempt to patent life itself is ethically unacceptable” and 2. That “Privatisation makes the poor suffer through loss of access to ecosystems that were formerly common pool resources”. “The MA Assessment is a powerful acknowledgement of the importance of maintaining the lineage of ecological stewardship which local people everywhere hold together”, said Ms. Hayes.
Afri, which is supporting this press conference, also points to expert reports such as the recent Review of International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) of 2009, which notes that “the most effective way to adapt agriculture to climate change is by growing diverse crops and increasing genetic diversity of the crop varieties we grow.” The report carried out by hundreds of leading experts across the world, including Ireland, and commissioned by the World Bank, UNEP, WHO and FAO specifically stated that “questionable technological fixes such as transgenic crops/GM should be avoided”.
Grace Maher Development Officer IOA Tel 087 6125989