Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan has announced that he is prohibiting the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in Northern Ireland.
The Minister’s announcement follows an earlier EU decision to permit Member States to opt out of growing approved GM crops within their territories.
Making the announcement at the launch of Environment Week in Parliament Buildings, Mark H Durkan said: “I remain unconvinced of the advantages of GM crops, and I consider it prudent to prohibit their cultivation here for the foreseeable future.
“The pattern of land use here and the relatively small size of many agricultural holdings creates potential difficulties if we were to seek to keep GM and non-GM crops separate. I consider that the costs of doing so could potentially be significant and, in many cases, totally impractical.
“Further, we are rightly proud of our natural environment and rich biodiversity. We are perceived internationally to have a clean and green image. I am concerned that the growing of GM crops, which I acknowledge is controversial, could potentially damage that image.”
The decision comes after Scotland banned GM crops in August. Meanwhile Wales is maintaining what it describes as “a restrictive and precautionary approach to GM crop cultivation”.
In England, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it will only allow GM crops to be planted and the marketing of GM food or feed products if a “robust risk assessment indicates that it is safe for people and the environment”.
It says each proposal would be looked at on a case-by-case basis, with an emphasis on the scientific evidence.
Eighteen million farmers in 28 countries grow GM crops on 181 million hectares, which is 13% of the world’s arable land.
The main producers are the USA, Brazil and Argentina, and the leading GM crops are soya and maize.