GENET archive


9-Misc: Calls for GE-free Northern Ireland and Wales

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Sinn Fein in plea over crops
SOURCE: Press Association/U.TV, Ireland
DATE:   Jul 30, 2003

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Sinn Fein in plea over crops

Agriculture ministers on both sides of the border were today urged to
keep Ireland free of genetically modified crops and foods.

Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh councillor Gerry McHugh and the
party's European Parliament candidate in Dublin Mary Lou McDonald called
for a "simultaneous public consultation" on the issue on both sides of
the border amid a fierce debate over the potential threat to human,
animal and plant health.

Accusing the British Government of conducting a "superficial debate" on
the issue in Northern Ireland, Mr McHugh said it was clear Prime Minister
Tony Blair was intent on growing genetically modified crops.

"There has only been a superficial debate in the north (of Ireland) yet
it appears Tony Blair already has his mind made up on GM," he said in Dublin.

"In his last cabinet reshuffle he exiled Michael Meacher, a vocal critic
of GM, to the back benches.

"A July 11 report said there was little economic benefit from GM and then
last week another report by scientists with advice that there are
apparently few risks associated with eating GM food.

"It is clear that the British Government is going to adopt GM food and
crops, they do not support the European model of farming while Tony Blair
is only interested in appeasing big business interests."

The former Sinn Fein Assembly agriculture spokesman claimed the risk of
hybrid cross-contamination from GM crops to indigenous crops was
extremely high.

This, he said, would result in the loss of genetic diversity and would
have "serious, potentially fatal consequences" for the future of organic

Mr McHugh also warned that local farmers would be "at the mercy" of
consumers if the technology went wrong.

"They will be the ones who will suffer huge losses - not the large
corporations like Monsanto," he argued.

The Sinn Fein councillor said the party would continue to lobby Northern
Ireland Office Agriculture Minster Ian Pearson to ban the planting or
sale of GM food and crops.

"When devolved government returns to the north, we will pursue this with
a local minister and through as many of the relevant committees as
possible," he vowed.

"Sinn Fein will also be seeking a meeting with the minister of
agriculture to express our concerns and the need for a simultaneous
public consultation with the south.

"I know my colleague, the former (Stormont) Health Minister Bairbre de
Brun shares all of my concerns on this issue because of the huge risks
associated with human health.

"Farmers have a lot to lose if genetically modified food is grown in Ireland."

Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris also accused the Republic's Agriculture
Minister Joe Walsh of being "out of touch" with public opinion for
failing to initiate a public consultation on the GM issue south of the border.

The Kerry North TD said: "This is typical of a minister who is out of
touch with public opinion and an arrogant denial of the right of the
Irish people to have their say in whether they want to consume
genetically modified food.

"Irish farmers are also being denied the opportunity to voice their
opinion. This debate must take place on an island-wide basis.

"This island cannot allow one part to opt for genetically modified crops
or food while the other part abstains.

"Cross contamination of hybrid plants and crops could contaminate the
whole island."

Mr Ferris said the claim that GM technology led to increased crop
productivity was a myth.

"Research from the United States proves that the main GM crop, Roundup
Ready soya has up to 11% lower yield than non-GM soya," he said.

"A Soil Association report, 'Seeds of Doubt,' concluded that GM crops
have led to lower yields, greater dependency on herbicides and
pesticides, a loss of markets and lower productivity for farmers in the US."

Dublin European Parliament candidate Mary Lou McDonald attacked claims by
supporters of GM technology that it was needed in the fight against

"It is unethical for the genes of animals to be placed in the genes of
plants," she said.

"We are told that this is for the benefit of countries which cannot
produce enough food to feed their own people and that it will reduce the
amount of damage to crops and reduce the amounts of pesticides used.

"Genes are the right of everyone. No-one has the right to own or to
patent genes but this is exactly what is happening.

"It is incredible that these people who use the argument that GM will
help to feed the world are the very same people who placed a 'Terminator
Gene' in their seeds so that farmers cannot use seeds that are harvested
to plant next year's crops."

Ms McDonald also rejected claims that thoseungry.

"People who today are starving are starving because they cannot access
food or cannot afford it," she continued.

"Food has more to do with land reform, food distribution and the
availability to access cheap credit and the assistance to source food locally.

"Farmers in poor undeveloped countries cannot afford to buy seed each
year but this is exactly what the 'Terminator Gene' is intended to do.

"Further to this debate, the GM industry hailed the introduction of
'Golden Rice' as the saviour of malnourished children by the introduction
of beta-carotene that converts into Vitamin A.

"What use is beta-carotene when the body requires sufficient body protein
and fat to produce Vitamin A?"

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Make Britain GM free, says Charles
SOURCE: The Western Mail, UK, by Steve Dube
DATE:   Jul 30, 2003

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Make Britain GM free, says Charles

GENETICALLY-MODIFIED crops should be banned in Britain, the Prince of
Wales told The Western Mail yesterday.

Speaking as he officially opened the Western Mail and Echo's new 18m
press in Cardiff Bay, the Prince said, "We need a GM-free Wales - and a
GM-free Britain as well, for that matter."

And he dismissed the merits of a claim that moves to ban so-called
"Frankenstein foods" in Wales alone were illegal.

The World Trade Organisation is threatening legal action against the
European Union over its refusal to allow imports of unlabelled GM produce
from America.

But the claims of illegality come from the European Commission, and were
repeated by EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler at last week's Royal
Welsh Show.

The Prince's reaction, as he fuelled the debate on GM crops, was blunt:
"It's ridiculous," he said.

Prince Charles took his dislike of GM crops to the ultimate level
yesterday as he called for the British ban, although he has frequently
expressed strong views on the issue

"I happen to believe that this kind of genetic modification takes mankind
into realms that belong to God, and to God alone," he has written.

"Apart from certain highly beneficial and specific medical applications,
do we have the right to experiment with, and commercialise, the building
blocks of life?

"We simply do not know the long-term consequences for human health and
the wider environment, of releasing plants bred in this way.

"We are assured that these new plants are vigorously tested and
regulated, but the evaluation procedure seems to presume that, unless a
GM crop can be shown to be unsafe, there is no reason to stop its use.

"Once genetic material has been released into the environment it cannot
be recalled. The likelihood of a major problem may, as some people
suggest, be slight, but if something does go badly wrong we will be faced
with the problem of clearing up a kind of pollution which is self-

"I am not convinced that anyone has the first idea of how this could be
done, or indeed who would have to pay."

Dr Brian John, a co-ordinator of the GM Free Cymru campaign group, said
last night, "Good for Prince Charles, to put this issue in the public
spotlight again.

"Franz Fischler is making up the rules as he goes along. He should go
away quietly and sit in a dark room for a while.

"The crucial issue is not the claim of GM-free status, but the strength
of the scientific argument."

The European Commission will make a ruling on the legality of GM-free
zones in September, after Upper Austria declared itself GM free last month.

Dr John said the case was likely to become another tug-of-war between the
EC and its greatest rival, the European Parliament.

Dr John said, "I would have thought that Wales would have a very powerful
scientific case for saying that we want to be GM free as a country."

Plaid Cymru's rural affairs spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas said, "If the
National Assembly of Wales - which has a settled view on the need for
Wales to be GM free - can't make such a decision, what is the point of

"Let's use the powers we have got to the maximum. Let's push at the
boundaries and see what we can actually achieve.

"If the Welsh Assembly Government had the political will, they could
announce that Wales was GM free and, in terms of a marketing tool for
Welsh products, what could be better than clean and green, backed by GM free?"

A spokesman for the National Assembly insisted that Wales could not
legally describe itself as GM free.

"We never claimed to be GM free but we take the most restrictive approach
possible within the existing legislation," he said.

"The Assembly not only argues for a restrictive approach to the
commercialisation of GM crops, but has also taken practical steps to
ensure that none are grown in Wales."

But University of Glamorgan bio-technologist Dr Denis Murphy dismissed
the bid for a GM-free Wales as a misguided fantasy.

He said the policy was not practically feasible - following the EU's
decision earlier this month to approve the sale of GM food as long as it
was clearly labelled -- and not legally enforceable.

In addition Dr Murphy, a former government adviser on GM technology,
claimed that the policy would not enhance the economic competitiveness of
Welsh agriculture.

"A GM-free Wales would be completely irrelevant because the kind of GM
crops you can grow in Wales would not affect our farmers.

And he added, "Organic farmers would be 'stuffed' whether Wales was GM
free or not."


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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