GENET archive


9-Misc: Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association calls forGE-free policy

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

SOURCE: GM-free Ireland Network, Press Release
DATE:   17 Jun 2004 

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A win-win strategy for livestock and tillage farmers GM-free Ireland
welcomes move to protect Irish farming future GM-free animal feed can
easily be grown in Ireland EU blocks controversial GM rapeseed amist
allegations of health risks cover-up

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) today called on the
Government to pursue an all-Ireland GM-free policy as part of an integral
strategy to leverage Ireland's green image and boost our share of farm
exports. ICSA Rural Development Chairman John Heney said "our island
status provides an unique opportunity for a credible GM-free policy for
high value beef and lamb export markets."

GM-free Ireland Network co-ordinator Michael O'Callaghan said "Our
stakeholders welcome this timely move to protect the future of Irish
farming. Having examined the pros and cons of genetic engineering, the
ICSA has now joined the growing network of Irish farming organisations,
food businesses and NGOs who realise that keeping Ireland GM free
provides the most important way to protect the economic future of Irish
farmers and food producers. We hope the government will take heed and
reconsider its hardline pro-GM policy in the interests of farmers, food
producers, consumers and the environment."

Members of the GM-free Ireland Network ( now
include the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, the Restaurants
Association of Ireland, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers
Association, Irish Farmers Markets, Slow Food Ireland, Euro-Toques
Ireland / the European Commission of Chefs, the Irish Seed Savers
Association, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association, Sustainable
Ireland and other groups. At a GM-free Ireland workshop in April, Irish
Farmers Association Deputy President Ruaidhri Deasy said "The IFA's
stance on GMOs is: Keep GM products out of Ireland; we don't need them,
we certainly can't pay for them, and our customers don't want them."

In its press release today, ICSA President Malcolm Thompson said "the
single most important challenge for Irish agriculture is to build on the
momentum of increased demand for Irish beef and lamb by strengthening our
image as Ireland - the food island. We need to capitalise on a green
image, and tap into the demand for natural products." Food industry
observers say the global demand for GM-free seeds, animal feed and food
may soon outstrip supply due to widespread GM contamination of farmland
in the USA, Argentina, Canada and China. This gives Ireland an
opportunity to leverage our green image and corner our share of the
growing market for the safe GM-free food which some 80% of EU consumers
now demand.

ICSA rural development chairman John Heney explained that if Ireland
wishes to be a leading supplier of beef and lamb to the highest value EU
markets, then it is vital to listen and respond to European consumer
concerns. "Surveys clearly show that the majority of EU consumers are
strongly opposed to any use of genetically modified organisms, whether as
part of food for humans or as part of the diet of animals destined for
meat production. This is a vital message which cannot be ignored if we
wish to successfully market Irish beef."

Mr Heney added that Ireland, as an island cut off from mainland Europe
has a unique opportunity to put forward a GM free policy which will be
highly credible. "Because of our island status, we can realistically
claim to be GM free, without risk of contamination from other EU
countries that may take a different approach to GM."

Mr. O'Callaghan points out that Ireland is ideally positioned to become a
GM-free biosafety reserve for the food security of other EU member states
because we are:
(1) upwind from most transboundary GM pollen contamination (80% of our
wind blows from the Atlantic),
(2) geographically isolated and surrounded by water, and
(3) we probably have the lowest previous GM exposure in Europe.

Mr Heney said "we have examined the implications of GM free production
for competitiveness and ICSA is happy that the overall best interests of
Irish farmers will be determined primarily by our ability to sell beef
and lamb in high value markets. He pointed out that since the cost of GM
free animal feed is only marginally higher than the usual product fed to
Irish livestock (which normally contains substantial amounts of GM soya
and GM corn gluten), a GM-free Ireland policy 'would actually boost
demand for home grown cereals such as barley and wheat. In this way, a GM
free policy is positive for both Irish meat producers and Irish tillage

This win-win approach was echoed by Irish Farmers Association Ruaidhri
Deasy who said there is no problem for Irish farmers to grow completely
GM-free animal feed (including grass, rolled barley, oats, and peas) for
their sheep, cattle and milk cows, as he does on his own farm in Co.
Tipperary. Although the EU GM labelling laws now in effect do not require
meat and dairy products from animals fed on GM feedstuffs to be labelled
as such, informed consumers want a completely GM-free food chain and
leading retailers such as Marks & Spencer guarantee their fresh meat and
dairy products are sourced from animals who have been fed a totally GM-
free diet.

The ICSA announcement came on the heels of the first enlarged-EU decision
on GM issues made yesterday (16 June), when the 25 European member
governments blocked the import of Monsanto's controversial herbicide
resistant GM rapeseed (Canola) which has contaminated all conventional
rapeseed farmers in Canada, amidst allegations of a cover-up of health
and contamination risks by Monsanto. Remarkably, Ireland (which normally
votes for GM products) abstained, along with Germany, Spain and Slovenia,
and 6 new EU government voted against. The governments which voted to
block the GM food included Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Greece,
Hungary, Italy, Malta, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, and the UK.
Monsanto's application will now go back to the European Commission who
must decide whether to push for a vote by Ministers or not. GM-free
Ireland says it hopes the government will vote against the introduction
of the GM rapeseed, which would invevitably contaminate Irish farms and
contribute to the proliferation of herbicide resistant superweeds if
allowed anywhere on this island.

Commenting on the EU vote, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO Coordinator
Geert Ritsema said "This is an important result for 'New Europe'. This
vote shows that the US cannot count on the new member states to follow
their policies in the area of genetically modified food. Member States
have put the safety of European citizens and their environment before the
financial interests of biotech giants like Monsanto and their friends in
the White House. The European Commission should now follow suit and
reject GM foods until their safety can be proven."

It's clear the global market for safe GM free food is growing daily.
ICSFA now wants the government to support for a GM-free Ireland policy
and to actively pursue such a policy with its counterparts in Northern


For more information about the ICSA, visit

For details on the EU rejection of Monsanto_s GM rapeseed, visit"16"june"US"food.htm

For background on the GM-free Ireland campaign, visit


Michael O'Callaghan
Co-ordinator, GM-free Ireland Network
Chairman, Global Vision Consulting Ltd
Tel: (0404) 43 885 Mobile: 087 799 4761

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

TITLE:  ICSA GM free island policy
SOURCE: Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association
DATE:   Jun 2004 

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ICSA GM free island policy

Section 1


1.1 The Organisation

ICSA is a representative organisation for farmers involved in beef,
suckler or sheep production. It currently has 9,000 members and
membership is growing. It led the way in the debate on CAP reform,
campaigning for full decoupling from the very start.

1.2 The Decision

The ICSA national executive voted in favour of a GM free island policy in
May 2004, following extensive internal consultation.

1.3 The Motivation

ICSA is preoccupied with the future of Irish farming, which it sees as
being inextricably linked with our ability to sell our produce on the
higher value EU markets. Before decoupling, the focus was on subsidies,
intervention and export refunds- this is no longer tenable. Decoupling
means that success in the market is everything.

1.4 The Policy

ICSA has observed the controversy surrounding GMOs. Irish beef farmers
are only too painfully aware of the problems that arise when the
confidence of the consumer is lost- as was experienced through the BSE
era. We are now putting that behind us and the image of beef is
improving. Grass fed beef is in a particularly good position. For
example, it is higher in conjugated linoleic acids, which have beneficial
properties that counteract heart disease and cancer. (Teagasc National
Food Centre)

GM free beef and lamb is an additional characteristic that can help a
natural, healthy and environmentally friendly image.

Section 2

Legislative Framework

2.1 EU legislation

The position of GMOs is covered by a number of pieces of legislation and
- Regulation (EC) No 1830/2003 concerning the traceability and labelling
of genetically modified organisms and the traceability of food and food
products produced from genetically modified organisms and amending
Directive 2001/18/EC
- Recommendation 2003/556/EC on guidelines for the development of
national strategies and best practices to ensure the co-existence of
genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming
- Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of
genetically modified organisms (which supplants Directive 90/220/EEC).
This legislation establishes a step by step approval process for a case
by case assessment of the risks to human health and the environment prior
to authorising the placing on the market or release into the environment
of any GMO or product containing GMO
- Regulation 258/97/EC on Novel foods and Food Ingredients. This
regulates the authorisation and labelling of novel foods including food
products containing or produced from GMOs
- Also of relevance is the UN Cartagena Protocol of September 11, 2003
and the setting up of a WTO dispute panel on GMOs, arising from a
complaint by the US government about the EU's de-facto moratorium on GMOs.

Section 3

The Political Arena Relating to GMOs

3.1 EU/ WTO Environment

In general, the position relating to GMOs remains complicated by a
combination of the EU approach, a UN protocol and a WTO dispute.

3.2 Fischler

The EU position can be summed up by reference to comments made by EU
Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler.

He pointed out that "we want farmers as well as consumers to have a real
choice of what to grow and how to grow it". However, this is limited by
his belief that "the question marks surrounding safety of GMOs for both
humans and the environment have been settled by the recent establishment
of a stringent approval process, while the issue of enabling consumers to
choose has been settled by the introduction of requirements on
traceability and clear labelling".

The EU position is far from decisive, however. Fischler's approach also
refers to the question of liability. This arises from the possibility
that if farmers are allowed to choose, then there is a real risk that a
farmer who grows a field of GM crop could actually contaminate his
neighbours non GM crop. In this instance, the EU is reluctant to
legislate because liability law in each member state is different, but in
general, the position can be summed up in the following terms- liability
is likely to fall on the farmer growing the GM crop for any contamination
of his neighbours and there is no superior EU law as a defence to this
potential liability. As Fischler says, "the EU has no competence when it
comes to issues of private liability law."

It appears that Germany is intent on using this as a probably effective
way of discouraging any GM cultivation.

Fischler expands on this liability question with a justification for what
seem like incomplete EU rules on GMOs when he says "This is precisely why
the Commission is in favour of making recommendations on adopting
guidelines at EU level, but then leaving it up to the member states which
measures they transpose into their national law and how they actually do it"

He then adds, "regulating the co-existence of GM and traditional farming
is a typical example of the subsidiarity principle in action: taking
decisions at the most efficient and sensible level. A catch-all, EU level
approach makes no sense here"

He goes further and argues that "I favour voluntary grouping farmers into
GM free or organic zones. This would be both profitable and attractive
from the marketing point of view"

(Speaking Note for Franz Fischler, Press Conference 23/7/2003)

3.3 UN Cartagena Protocol

The UN Cartagena Protocol (September 2003) aims for transparency in GMO
trade. It obliges exporters to provide information about GM products
before any shipment to recipient countries to help them decide whether to
accept it.

Under its provisions, a nation may reject GMO imports or donations-even
without scientific proof- if it fears that they pose a danger to
traditional crops, undermine local cultures or cut the value of biodiversity.

The USA did not sign up to the protocol, and is concerned that parties
might implement the protocol in some way that is inconsistent with the
provisions of the WTO.

3.4 WTO

In fact, the topic of GMOs has become the source of considerable tension
at WTO level between the US and EU administrations. Not unlike the
hormone row, the US sees EU concerns as little more than a smokescreen
for trade barriers. The US consumer is generally unconcerned with GMO
production methods whereas the issue is a hot potato with Europeans.

Up until recently the EU was accused of having a de-facto moratorium on
new GM approval. This has changed with the April Farm Council decision to
approve the GM sweetcorn BT 11. However, while this may temporarily
reduce tension, the fact is that US farming and industrial interests
remain committed to attacking European reluctance to allow widespread GM,
seeing it as damaging to their farm produce.

Part of this tension is reflected in the setting up of a WTO dispute
panel, on foot of an American complaint, to examine the areas of
contention around GMOs. In this, there is potential for conflict between
the Americans and Europeans. For example, the UN Cartagena protocol seems
to take a less restrictive view on reasons why a country might refuse GMO
imports. In contrast, WTO disputes tend to require solid scientific
grounds in order to be seen as something more than an artificial barrier
to trade.

It is therefore likely that GMOs are likely to be a source of tension for
some time to come at WTO.

Section 4

ICSA Position

4.1 ICSA Favours GM free island policy

ICSA favours Ireland adopting a GM free policy. By this, it is meant that
GM technology would not be used in the growing of any crops or plants on
Irish soil. It is also meant that farm animals in Ireland would be fed
entirely GM free rations. It is not the position of ICSA that GM foods
should not be available to Irish or EU consumers as long as there is
comprehensive and clear labelling.

Given that the position at WTO level is unclear, Ireland should approach
this from a point of insisting that each member state should be allowed
maximum flexibility to decide its own policy, in relation to farm production.

By allowing the consumer freedom to choose WTO concerns may be lessened,
although not completely eliminated. Non EU farmers will still want to
export products such as soya. However, as pointed out, the EU Commission
has stated that it favours the principle of subsidiarity. It is also
pertinent to point out that the level of EU civil concern over GMOs is
sufficiently high that EU policy makers could well adopt a hormone
approach- pay the fines rather than concede.

ICSA also favours this policy being extended to become a whole island
policy. In practice, the Irish government should declare itself in favour
of the GM free route and actively canvass a similar approach with the
relevant authorities in Northern Ireland .

4.2 Public Opinion

The ICSA position on GMOs is completely consumer driven. ICSA believes
that while it is appropriate to allow the EU consumer choice based on
clear labelling, it is also the case that many EU consumers are concerned
and worried about GM technology. ICSA sees these as a very significant
potential market, and it is to this group that the ICSA position is targeted.

A GM free island policy would provide a marketing edge that could be used
to help get a higher share of higher priced markets. Fundamentally, the
strategy is to increase share of high value EU markets by providing the
consumer with what they want.

4.3 Marketing to Discerning EU Consumers

Key Statistic: Ireland is supplying only 8% of the massive beef import
requirement of the high priced Italian market.

This needs to be addressed as a critical part of the future strategy for
Irish agriculture and in particular for our most important product- beef.
We export 9 out of every 10 tons produced of beef and for that reason,
unique selling points as part of a marketing strategy are absolutely critical.

Bord Bia has already positioned Ireland as the 'food island', building a
concept linked to the natural, grass based production methods for Irish
beef and lamb. This is the right approach and it needs to be consolidated
and developed.

ICSA wants to see this image of the food island developed as being
synonymous with a higher quality type of natural food. GM free is a
logical fit to this strategy. We need to be continuously aware of what
the consumer wants but also mindful of the fact that we need to target
the more affluent EU consumer as much as possible. There is little future
in competing on lowest price with basic commodities against international

4.31 What does the consumer want?

The consumer wants a secure supply of good quality food produced in a
healthy environment, at an affordable price

4.32 What does the consumer not want?

Experience has shown that the consumer does not want;
- Food produced using growth promoters (whether legal or illegal)
- Food produced from unhealthy stock e.g. BSE and Foot and Mouth diseased
- Food produced, involving the over-use of chemicals, herbicides,
pesticides and antibiotics.
- Consumer research undertaken over the last number of years has shown
that European consumers do not want Genetically Modified food
- It is not necessary to have a majority of consumers opposed to GMOs,
but rather a committed core of consumers who are prepared to actively
choose GM free product at a premium price
- A 1999 Euro barometer study showed that 56% of all EU consumers were
very concerned about GM technology
- This provides a very serious core of potential customers for GM free

ICSA is therefore proposing a GM free policy strictly on the basis of the
marketing edge that it could provide, on the basis that the biggest
challenge facing Irish agriculture, as a nation that has to export 9 out
of every 10 tons of beef produced, is to ensure that we can sell it to
real and valuable markets. The success or otherwise of this strategy will
decide the future of the Irish quality livestock industry in a decoupled

4.4 Science of GMOs

ICSA is advancing its argument on GMOs not because of perceptions of risk
to either human health or the environment. There seems to be some
diversity of views in the scientific community. The ICSA argument is
simply that if enough consumers don't want it, then Ireland should cater
for their needs. Nonetheless, ICSA is uncomfortable with the fact that
the control of GM technology by multinational corporations could leave
farmers in a dependent and vulnerable position. For example, US dairy
farmers have become very dependent on BST (Bovine Somatotropin- a milk
producing hormone) to the extent that renovations of the factory where
BST is manufactured has caused a temporary crisis scarcity of milk in the

Section 5


5.1 Future for Irish Farming

- ICSA believes that the solution to Irish farming problems must come
from within farming.
- ICSA believes that a rational and reasoned approach must be adopted by
farmer representatives. Aggressive ill-tempered and ill-informed demands
are a thing of the past.
- ICSA believes that Decoupling has presented Irish farmers with a unique
opportunity to put quality production back on a firm footing. The market
place will be the interface where the future of Irish agriculture will be
- ICSA believes that the future for Irish farming lies in the selling
quality produce to a discerning and affluent European Market at a premium
price. Part of this strategy should include marketing Irish produce,
especially beef and lamb as coming from the green, food island. GM free
is an additional marketable characteristic.

5.2 ICSA and GMO's

- The growth in the use of GM technology in the global production of food
continues unabated. 
- ICSA are convinced that the use of GM technology in the production of
food is an issue which must be addressed. 
- Many scientific studies have been presented by scientist, on the pro GM
and anti GM camps 'conclusively' proving their side of the argument.
Indeed one very interesting study shows that most of the advantages of
the new GM technology could have been achieved by traditional plant
breeding techniques anyhow. 
- ICSA believes that as the primary producers of food, farmers have a
responsibility and indeed an obligation to take a pro-active stance on
this issue. 
- While much confusion exists as to the rights and wrongs of GM
technology, one over riding trend has remained constant and indeed has
grown stronger as the debate continues and that is that a very large
majority of consumers do not want Genetically Modified food 
- As a progressive and proactive farming organisation, ICSA is now
calling on the Government of Ireland and the Government in the North to
declare the island of Ireland a GMO free zone. This would utilise our
unique island status, enabling us to market ourselves as 'The Natural
Food Island' 
- In practice, what this would mean, would be that the production of GM
food and the feeding of GM feed to farm animals would be banned on the
island of Ireland . This unique situation would give the Irish food
industry a unique advantage in the marketing of farm produce to an
increasingly affluent and discerning European market.

5.3 ICSA and the Future
1. Ireland 's unique island status, will facilitate Ireland becoming a GM
free zone.
2. Ireland has the best growing conditions in Europe with our moist
temperate climate.
3. Ireland has by and large escaped the growth of industrialised
monoculture farming with all of its negative implications for bio-
diversity and soil quality.

ICSA believes that there is a real future for a viable and prosperous
farming sector in Ireland .

We firmly believe that our future lies in the utilisation of our unique
natural environment and traditional farming expertise to produce the
highest quality food available in Europe


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