GENET archive



mailinglist genet-news
NGOs Call for a Halt on Genetic Engineering at Dept. of Environment Forum

Today (Tuesday May 25th) in the Sutton Castle Hotel the first stage of a
Department of the Environment consultation process on GMOs and the
Environment was held. Four speakers representing non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) called for a halt to the introduction of genetic
engineering in food and agriculture.

Most of the twenty NGOs who made written submissions to the Department have
reluctantly chosen to participate in the forum, even though they believe
that the proposed debate is fundamentally flawed. The groups are calling for
an immediate governmental rather than departmental approach. Already in a
recent Dáil debate it was clearly evident that different departments have
very diverse attitudes on this issue.

The proposed forum will focus primarily on environmental issues about
genetic engineering to the exclusion of issues which are the remit of the
Departments of Agriculture and Health.

Sadhbh O’Neill who opened the debate for the NGO sector said "There is a
genuine public belief that this technology is wrong, which has not been
addressed in the regulatory process to date. Ethics, we are told, is always
someone else’s remit, with the result that no-one is taking responsibility
for the moral dilemmas posed by this technology at all".

Ms. O’Neill continued "By engineering food, we are engineering evolution
without any understanding of the consequences. This has serious implications
because the technology is irreversible, uncontrollable and unreliable. If we
don’t stop its advance we will be burdening future generations and will
contaminate the earth with products designed to profit large multi-nationals
at the expense of society and nature"

Dr. Paul Dowding of the Department of Botany in Trinity College Dublin said
"GM technology will accelerate a trend which is already turning our
environment into a green desert. While chemical inputs might be reduced,
RoundUp® herbicide to which some genetically engineered plants are immune,
kills all plants except the genetically engineered crop thereby reducing the
number of plants and animals that can survive in our countryside."

According to Dr. Ruth McGrath "Genetic engineering is being pushed onto the
market at a time when the risks are totally unquantified and very poorly
researched. They are being foisted under the guise of "feeding the world".
However, the real reason appears to be that the European Union fears being
left behind as the USA increasingly dominates its control over global food
production. This is the biotechnological equivalent of an arms race."

Quentin Gargan said "Consumer surveys throughout Europe have consistently
shown that there is no market for genetically engineered crops. In the USA
where such crops are not segregated, there has been rapid growth in the use
of the technology in agriculture. However, many European supermarkets and
food manufacturers have formed alliances to avoid genetically engineered
ingredients, and we have de-facto segregation which means that the market
for such foods are far from assured.
Rather than bearing the economic and other risks, Ireland should instead
become a GMO-free zone and supply the niche market, thus producing foods
which consumers prefer to buy"

Background information on speakers representing NGO sector

Dr. Paul Dowding is a former head of the Department of Environmental
Sciences at Trinity College Dublin. He currently lectures on Plant Diseases,
Agriculture and the Environment, Air Pollution and Climatology.

Dr. Ruth McGrath* is an environmental microbiologist, currently working on
the issue of patenting and biotechnology. She has completed a masters in
Development Studies with particular reference to biotechnology.

Ms Sadhbh O’Neill has worked with a number of environmental NGOs, and as a
public representative focussed primarily on environmental issues. She has
completed three years’ post-graduate research in environmental philosophy.

Mr Quentin Gargan has worked in various aspects of the food industry for
over twenty years. He spent the last fifteen as managing director of
Wholefoods Wholesale, specialising in the supply of natural foods to
healthfood stores where genetically engineered soya have always been
considered unacceptable and unnatural.

* Dr. McGrath is standing in for Professor Joe Cummins who will be
participating in the second stage of the forum on June 3rd. Professor
Cummins is Emeritus Professor of genetics at the University of Ontario. He
is one of the foremost opponents of the manner in which genetic engineering
is being introduced to food and agriculture and has published over 200
papers. His recent work focuses on the risks associated with viral promoters
used in genetic engineering and the use of artificial Bt genes to enable
genetically engineered crops to produce their own insecticide.


Genet News