WILL BERTIE GIVE US A GMO TIME-BOMB FOR CHRISTMAS?
Dublin, 29 November 2004 • Global Vision Consulting Ltd.
on behalf of the GM-free Ireland Network
Dáil urged to block new GMO animal feed
Monsanto's GT73 oilseed rape GMO animal feed could contaminate the nation
Farmers ask government to vote against legalisation on 20 December
IUCN World Conservation Union calls for end to GMO releases
Farmers in 12 EU countries to sue Wyeth for animal feed contamination scandal
"Green Food Island" cannot co-exist with GM food and farming
Growing GM-free animal feed can boost Irish farm incomes
The GM-free Ireland Network has issued an urgent warning to the Government to block the release of a new type of GMO animal feed due for a EU Council of Ministers vote in Brussels on 20 December.
At a joint briefing of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Development on 24 November 2004, the GM-free Ireland Network, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association and Friends of the Earth Ireland asked the Government to vote against the placing on the market of the first living genetically modified (GM) animal feed (Monsanto's patented GT73 oilseed rape seeds, which are immune to that company's Roundup glyphosate weedkiller), because these GMO seeds would inevitably contaminate all Irish farmers, create an epidemic of Roundup-resistant Superweeds, increase the use of weedkillers, and threaten consumer health. (GM-free Ireland briefing 876k PDF file.)
Monsanto's GT73 is different and far more dangerous than other GM animal feeds because it is a living GMO seed which sprouts easily and grows rapidly. If Ireland and/or the UK supports the Council of Ministers effort to allow it on the market this Christmas, millions of GMO seeds could soon be shipped here, unloaded in harbours, and transported by rail and road to animal feed processing centres around the country. The inevitable spillage along the way would thus result in the de facto release of GM oilseed rape crops without the required government authorisation or the consent of the affected farmers and consumers.
This GMO release would rapidly lead to widespread GM contamination of conventional varieties, related crops, and unrelated species via seed dispersal, wind-borne pollen and horizontal gene transfer. New Scientist magazine recently confirmed that wind-borne pollen from GM oilseed rape can contaminate crops 26km from its source. Because GM food must carry a GM label, Irish farmers would have to label their contaminated produce and thus lose access to the growing GM-free market. Since organic certification prohibits GM crops and GM ingredients, organic farmers would lose their constitutional right to maintain their livelihood. Irish farmers, producers and consumers would lose their right to choose safe food. (For more on Monsanto's GM oilseed rape contamination, ruthless treatment of farmers, and related law suits, see our interview with Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser.)
Speaking on behalf of the 20,000-plus members of the GM-free Ireland Network, Michael O'Callaghan said "Ireland's GM policy is a national security issue because GMOs released into the environment can never be recalled. Any decision to allow the environmental release of patented GMOs on this island would (a) rob farmers of the right to plant their own seeds, (b) have irreversible impacts on farming income, food exports, biodiversity, food safety, public health, and consumer choice, and (c) compromise Ireland's famous image as Europe's clean green food island. Government sovereignty derives from the duty to protect its citizens. The time has come for this Government to stop placing the vested interests of biotech corporations and the US government above our national security. Future generations will hold you accountable."
Many European observers are baffled by this Government's pro-GM EU voting record, the various GM crop approvals by former Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne, and the ongoing denial of the scientific evidence of GM risks.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said it has no remit to comment on GT73's potential for contaminating farmers. It repeated Monsanto's claim that GT73 animal feed presents no danger to human health, despite no long-term studies to support this claim, the growing scientific evidence of GM risks to human and animal health, and a motion by the Oireachtas Committee on Health on 13 May opposing the release of GM crops in Ireland. The Royal Society of Canada said it was "scientifically unjustifiable" to presume that GM foods are safe, and that the "default prediction" for any GM foods is the creation of unintended side effects. The only human feeding trial ever conducted confirmed that the transgenes from soy burgers and a soy milkshake transferred to the bacteria inside the digestive tract after only one meal, making the bacteria resistant to herbicide. (The biotech industry had previously said that such a transfer was impossible.) The World Health Organisation, the British and American Medical Associations, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association and several other groups have expressed concern that if the "antibiotic resistant marker genes" used in GM foods also transfer to bacteria, it could create superdiseases that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Likewise, if the Bt genes (inserted into many GM crops to make them produce their own insecticides) were to jump to bacteria inside the human gut, it could turn people into living pesticide factories. The Independent Science Panel held a briefing on GM risks at the European Parliament on 20 October. At the World Conservation Congress in Bangkok on 22 November 2004, members of the IUCN - World Conservation Union (which include 77 states, 114 government agencies, 800-plus NGOs, and more than 10,000 internationally-recognised scientists) cited evidence of animal and human health risks to carry a large majority vote in favour of a global ban on GMO releases.
Most Irish non-organic meat and dairy produce already comes from animals fed on animal feed which contain GM ingredients (mostly from GM soybeans and GM maize gluten). Many Irish farmers only became aware of this since the GM labelling laws (which came into effect last summer) require this animal feed to carry a GM label. But Irish consumers remain unaware that most of their meat and dairy produce comes from GM-fed animals because such food does not carry the GM label.
IFA Deputy President Ruaidhri Deasy and ICSA Rural Develoment Chairman John Heney have both pointed out that Irish livestock are mostly fed on grass, and only eat small amounts of animal feed compared to other countries. They also said Irish farmers can easily phase out GM animal feed in favour of GM-free feed from local sources, since we have the capacity to grow enough GM-free oats, barley and protein-rich lupins here to feed our livestock.
There is now a rapidly growing market for GM-free animal produce, with major food brands, retailers and over 70% of EU consumers refusing GM food. Marks & Spencer guarantees all of its fresh meat and milk comes from GM-free fed animals. Macra na Feirme Chief Executive Damian McDonald said that leading meat processors have begun asking Irish farmers to avoid GM animal feed. The Irish-based Kepak Group, which processes over 400,000 cattle and 2.5 million lambs per annum, sources all its chicken meat from birds reared on a GMO free diet and refuses livestock fed on GM animal feed for export to some of its prime European markets. The Restaurants Association of Ireland, together with Euro-Toques Ireland (representing the nation's 200 leading chefs), the Food Writers Guild and Slow Food Ireland are opposed to GM food and farming.
This growing demand for GM-free animal feed fits the CAP reform goal of making European agriculture more diversified and sustainable. Producing GM-free animal feed locally would revitalise our traditional cereal harvests and generate new sources of income for hard-pressed farmers, while also reducing the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the long-distance transportation of imported feeds.
Ruaidhri Deasy said "My farm is a GM-free zone because I only use feed from my own barley and oats. I don't use anything else." John Heney said "I'm certain we can supply GM-free animal feed ourselves; there may be a small cost increase, but this is well worth paying to establish a GM-free status which will provide a huge marketing advantage for selling Irish food in Europe."
Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, whom Monsanto sued for a million dollars after its GM oilseed rape contaminated his farm, said: "Farmers in Ireland should look at GM crops very closely. Don't allow it in, because once you do there is no calling it back. I guarantee you if you introduce it today and I come back four or five years from now, it will be all over your country!"
The routine contamination of Irish animal feed with GM ingredients undermines European consumer confidence in Irish food. Ireland is already facing one of the biggest food scandals ever, as farmers in up to 12 EU countries prepare to sue the giant Irish-based US biotechnology firm Wyeth for contaminating animal feed and human food with the banned MPA growth hormone which ended up in soft drinks and animal feed across Europe. Wyeth (which produces many of its pharmaceutical products from giant vats of GMO bacteria at Leixlip, Co. Kildare), is now under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to this scandal. Moreover, the Department of Agriculture and Food found traces of banned meat and bonemeal (responsible for mad cow disease and CJD) in samples of over 4,600 tonnes of maize gluten animal feed shipped into Ringaskiddy on 12 November. The Department had ordered the recall of 350 tonnes of the ingredient which had already been shipped to feed compounders around the country. Last month, imported beet pulp animal feed was also discovered to contain traces of banned bone meal. Ruaidhri Deasy said the food export business and farmers livelihoods should not be jeopardized because of lax practises in the feed ingredients supply chain.
Michael O'Callaghan told the Oireachtas Committee: "The time has come for this Government to rethink its obsession with GM crops. Ireland's policy on GM issues needs to be forged through a democratic process involving the participation of all the stakeholder groups who will be affected by that policy, as legally required by the Biosafety Protocol, the Aarhus Convention and EU law. This consultation process should include an expert conference to enable the stakeholders to evaluate the relevant information, assess the risks and impacts, exchange views amongst themselves, consult independent experts, and forge a coherent strategy to give Irish farmers and consumers the right to chose a sustainable future".
O'Callaghan said he hopes the IFA and the ICMSA will join the other farming groups in calling for the Government to vote NO on the proposal to legalise Monsanto's GT73 oilseed rape at the Council of Ministers meeting scheduled for 20 December 2004.
NOTES TO EDITORS
GM-free Ireland briefing on Monsanto's GT73 GMO oilseed rape animal feed
Interview with Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser who was contaminated by Monsanto's GM oilseed rape
Interview with John Heney of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association
Interview with Ruaidhri Deasy of the Irish Farmers Association
GM Foods Are Inherently Unsafe
Eating GM Food is Gambling With Your Health
Seeds of Deception: exposing exposing corporate and government lies about the safety of genetically engineered food
IUCN - World Conservation Union call to end releases of GMOs
Independent Science Panel: www.indsp.org
The GM-free Ireland Network (www.gmfreeireland.org) is a rapidly growing association of individuals and organisations with a collective membership of over 20,000 farmers, food producers and distributors, restaurants, chefs, NGOs, journalists and consumers. Prominent organisational members include An Taisce, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Irish Farmers Markets, the Irish Association of Health Stores, Friends of the Earth Ireland, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Seed Savers Association, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association, Euro-Toques Ireland / the European Commission of Chefs, Slow Food Ireland, Food and Wine magazine, the Food Writers Guild, and Sustainable Ireland.
Co-ordinator, GM-free Ireland Network - www.gmfreeireland.org
Chairman, Global Vision Consulting Ltd - www.global-vision.com
Tel: + 353 (0)404 43 885
Mobile: + 353 087 799 4761