Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Stormont Agriculture Committee Chairman William Irwin MLA has raised concerns over proposals being debated in Brussels which would give EU member states the option to ban the use of GM materials within their borders.
Mr Irwin said that given Northern Ireland imports more than 90% of its animal feed material, any proposal to give EU members states the opportunity to ban GM would have a knock-on effect on the global market and have a significant impact here in Northern Ireland.
He stated: “At the ARD Committee this week we heard from the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association who outlined the concerns around the proposals currently being debated in the EU, which, if implemented, would allow member states to ban the use of GM materials within their own borders.”
He added: “Approaching this purely from a supply angle, this matter is of absolute importance to our Northern Ireland livestock industry as we import more than 90% of our feed material. In Northern Ireland we are fully reliant on imported product and therefore the types of changes being proposed would have a significant impact on our livestock industry.”
He added: “Currently all members states rely on GM material and with around 2 million tonnes of feed material entering Northern Ireland each year, much of this material is derived from GM sources globally. Therefore in light of this fact, it is important that the potential for EU member states to ban GM imports needs to be carefully considered, in terms of what the knock-on effects of this would be to feed trade globally.”
He concluded: “The Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association in their presentation to the Committee raised concerns as to the impact that such a policy could have on our own feed supply. This included concerns over driving up of feed prices and creating problems with logistics and labelling. I would certainly be encouraging a high level debate on this issue as there is the potential for huge knock-on effects as a result of any new policy, which would affect farmers here in Northern Ireland.”
Diane Dodds added: “These EU Commission proposals are a very worrying prospect for the feed industry and ultimately primary producers across NI and indeed Europe.
“Thankfully this week the proposals were dealt yet another blow, this time by MEPs sitting on the Environment Committee – who cited that such a proposal would distort the internal market.
“I believe this will force the Commission to withdraw the proposal and hopefully the result will be a focusing of minds which will lead to a scientific debate around the use of GMOs. It is important that before any changes are made we have a constructive debate and consultation with industry and the general public based on scientific evidence. Unfortunately, thus far this is something which the Environment Minister here in Northern Ireland has failed to do and should be held accountable for.
“A recent decision made by the Environment Minster, Mark H Durkan on the cultivation of GM crops in Northern Ireland was clearly a cross cutting matter which the minister ignored. Such a decision should receive Executive approval and should be called back into the Executive. Such a decision was a shock to the industry especially given the lack of consultation and debate on the matter.”