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9-Misc: Declaration of one thousand GMO-free zones in Ireland



                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Campaigners call for GM-free pledge from Govt
SOURCE: Ireland Online
DATE:   22 Apr 2005

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Campaigners call for GM-free pledge from Govt

The Government must get off the fence and declare Ireland totally against
genetically modified produce, it was claimed today.

With 1,000 businesses, homes, farms, and shops around the country
proclaiming themselves GM free, campaigners insisted the public had been
kept in the dark on the controversial issue for long enough.

Michael O’Callaghan, GM-free Ireland Network co-ordinator, warned the
Government had tried to cover-up what it stood for, but never voted against
GM crops.

“If the Irish Government and its Northern Ireland counterpart go ahead with
their current strategy to allow the so-called co-existence of GMO crops on
this island, we will lose our right to choose safe GM-free farming and
food, forever,” he said.

And he claimed ministers had at times promoted GM as a cure-all for world
food shortages.

Mr O’Callaghan said the introduction of patented GMO crops would contaminate
every farm in the country. But he said keeping Ireland GM free would create
a distinct economic advantage.

John Heney, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association spokesman, called on
ministers to stop hiding behind the opinions of a small group of
scientists.

“The public must be informed of all the issues involved and a national
debate initiated on the use of GM in food,” he said.

“Simplistic and patronising statements are not good enough. This charade has
gone on for far too long: our Government must respect its citizens’ rights
and immediately get off the fence on the GM issue. They owe it to us all.”

GM-free Ireland Network, which represents 56 farming organisations
nationwide, said hundreds of businesses had GMO-FREE ZONE signs on their
businesses to mark Earth Day.

Kathy Sinnott, MEP, said Ireland should be declared 100% GM free and used as
a control if tests for GM crops were conducted elsewhere in the European
Union.

“GMO crops are an experiment. I have told the European Parliament that I do
not support the GMO experiment, but if it is to go ahead in Europe I
recommend Ireland as the perfect control,” she said.

“It is an island with predominantly westerly winds and therefore
significantly protected from GMO contamination from neighbouring countries.

Most EU governments stalled over a complete ban on GMO crops, but 100
regional governments and 3,500 local authorities in 22 EU states outlawed
GMO farming.

And across Ireland counties Clare, Fermanagh and Monaghan have already
passed GM-free motions, while city councils and local authorities including
Derry, Mourne, Clonakilty, Navan and Newry have banned GM farming.

But it is feared the introduction of GM crops will burden farmers with
annual licensing fees, higher production costs, superweeds, bureaucracy,
labelling, and traceability issues.


                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  DECLARATION OF ONE THOUSAND GMO-FREE ZONES IN IRELAND
SOURCE: GM-Free Ireland Network
DATE:   22 Apr 2005

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DECLARATION OF ONE THOUSAND GMO-FREE ZONES IN IRELAND

GM-Free Ireland Network, 22 April 2005 -- Dublin, Ireland.

One thousand GMO-Free Zones were declared throughout the island of Ireland
today -- 22nd April, Earth Day 2005 -- by farmers, food producers, hotels,
restaurants, markets, pubs, retailers, and homes North and South of the
border. These sites require legal protection from contamination by
genetically modified (GM) seeds, crops, trees, livestock and fish. Hundreds
of participants have placed GMO-FREE ZONE signs outside their place of
business.

The event was co-ordinated by the GM-free Ireland Network (1), an
association of 56 farming organisations, companies and environmental groups
representing 32,000 farmers, foresters, food producers, food distributors
and exporters, leading chefs and restaurants, NGOs, professional
associations, doctors, economists, lawyers, journalists, students, and
consumers.

Speakers included Kathy Sinnott MEP, John Heney (Irish Cattle and Sheep
Farmers Association), Michael O’Callaghan (GM-free Ireland), Brian Meaney
(Clare County Council), and Sean McArdle (Irish Farmers Markets).

The GM-Free Ireland Network launched this initiative with a briefing for
media and politicians to highlight the legal, economic, health,
environmental and food security benefits of keeping Ireland free of GM
crops, and a political strategy to achieve this goal. The briefing, which
took place in Buswell’s Hotel in Dublin included a digital map showing the
location of the GMO-free sites (2).

Co. Clare, Co. Fermanagh and Co. Monaghan have already passed GM-free
motions. City Councils and other Local Authorities which have done likewise
include Clonakilty, Derry, Mourne, Navan and Newry. GM-free motions have
also been tabled in Co. Leitrim, Dublin City Council and South Dublin
County Council.



Addressing the briefing today the coordinator of the GM-free Ireland
Network, Michael O’Callaghan, said, “This government has never voted
against GM crops in the EU parliament. It still promotes the transnational
agri-biotech companies’ unscientific claims that genetically modified food
and crops will increase crop yields, improve nutrition, and alleviate world
hunger. But independent scientific evidence from around the world proves
beyond doubt that GMO crops often fail to perform, inevitably contaminate
surrounding regions, produce superweeds, can never be recalled, and cannot
“co-exist” with conventional and organic farming (3). If the Irish
Government and its Northern Ireland counterpart go ahead with their current
strategy to allow the so-called “co-existence” of GMO crops on this island,
we will lose our right to choose safe GM-free farming and food, forever.”

Michael O’ Callaghan continued, “The introduction of patented GMO crops in
Ireland would cause all farmers to be contaminated, lose their right to
save and plant their own seeds, and burden them with annual licensing fees,
higher production costs, superweeds, bureaucracy, labelling, traceability,
liability issues, and patent infringement lawsuits with no insurance
available to cover the risks. GM animal feed is already causing Irish
farmers to lose access to prime EU export markets, and destroying our world
famous clean green reputation as ‘Ireland the food island.’”

Kathy Sinnott, MEP said “GMO crops are an experiment. I have told the
European Parliament that I do not support the GMO experiment but if it is
to go ahead in Europe, I recommend Ireland as the perfect control. It is an
island with predominantly westerly winds and therefore significantly
protected from GMO contamination from neighbouring countries. With this
control, the EU will be able to properly assess GM crops in 5, 10, 50 years
time. And if GM bellies up European farmers and consumers will be able to
get safe food and seed stocks from us in Ireland.”

Michael O’Callaghan agreed: “Keeping Ireland GMO-free will provide Ireland
with a significant competitive economic advantage. The vast majority of
European food brands, retailers and consumers refuse GM food (4). Our
Atlantic winds and island status provide the capacity to produce the most
credible GM-free agricultural seeds and food in the EU.” (5)

Also speaking at the briefing John Heney, who is the Rural Development
Chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, said “Research
consistently shows that the majority of EU consumers are strongly opposed
to the use of GM, whether in the production of food for human consumption
or as part of the diet of animals destined for dairy and meat production.
This is a vital message, which cannot be ignored if we wish to successfully
market Irish beef. The old adage that ‘the customer is always right’ still
pertains. As food producers we are aware of not alone our moral obligation
but also our legal obligation to the people who consume our produce. We
have yet to be reassured of the safety of GM food.” He emphasized the need
for farmers to think of their future: “Food scares such as BSE have already
had devastating effects on farming. What if something should go wrong with
GM food? Last week’s Bt 10 maize scandal and the efforts of the people
involved to fudge the situation makes me very nervous. We must ask
ourselves, why should we risk our future for the benefit of faceless
multinational companies? It makes absolutely no sense! Because of our
unique island status we in Ireland have been afforded an opportunity to
make a very important decision. We can either decided to remain a totally
GM-free area and avoid all the inherent risks which this technology
involves or we can go down the dangerous and untried GM road, a road which
I am afraid has no turn backs!”

Although most EU governments still hesitate to ban GMO crops, 100 regional
governments and 3,500 local authorities in 22 EU countries already prohibit
GMO farming (5). But current EC law does not clearly define the matter: some
national governments approve the regions’ laws and others challenge them.
The Assembly of European Regions, Friends of the Earth Europe and a wide
coalition of NGOs have launched a campaign to ensure that an EC Directive
due later this year on the "Co-existence" of GM crops with conventional and
organic farming, will legally empower Irish Counties to protect themselves
from GMO contamination. Irish County Councils are being invited to sign an
EC petition to this effect. Michael O’Callaghan said “The declaration of
1,000 GMO-free zones in Ireland today marks a first step in protecting the
right of Irish farmers and consumers to choose safe food and farming.”

John Heney said he cannot understand the Irish Government’s stance on GM.
“The Government has an obligation to protect the interests of Irish
citizens. Hiding behind the opinions of a small group of scientists is not
good enough. We all know that science has got it wrong before and will do
so again in the future. ICSA believes that the blindfolds must be removed;
the public must be informed of all the issues involved and a national
debate initiated on the use of GM in food. Simplistic and patronising
statements are not good enough. For instance, just two weeks ago we heard
one of our top scientist say on RTE Prime Time that ‘sugar is sugar’ the
fact that it may be genetically modified was apparently irrelevant! I would
say to this gentleman, try telling a person living in Belfast, Beirut or
Baghdad that a car is a car - that is, irrespective of what somebody may
have packed into its boot. This charade has gone on for far too long: our
government must respect its citizen’s rights and immediately get off the
fence on the GM issue. They owe it to us all.”

A public presentation about the GMO-free sites will also take place this
afternoon as part of the Convergence Festival in Dublin.

ENDS



NOTES FOR EDITORS:

(1) The GM-free Ireland Network web site:
http://www.gmfreeireland.org
Prominent organisational members include the Body Shop, An Taisce (the
National Trust for Ireland), the Irish Doctors Environmental Association,
the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, the Irish Organic Farmers
and Growers Association, the Restaurants Association of Ireland,
Euro-Toques Ireland, the Irish Association of Health Stores, Irish Farmers
Markets, the Irish Seed Savers Association,Friends of the Earth, Friends of
the Irish Environment, the Columban Missionaries, the Food Writers Guild,
Forest Friends Ireland, Just Forests, the Irish Peatland Conservation
Council, the Irish Wildlife Trust, Voice of Irish Concern for the
Environment, Slow Food Ireland, and Sustainable Ireland.

(2) The map of Irish GMO-free zones may be viewed from 10am Friday 22 April
at
www.gmfreeireland.org/map/index3.php

(3) Authoritative information on the risks of GM food and farming is
available from the Independent Science Panel on GM at
http://www.indsp.org

(4) The EU market for GM labelled food products is virtually closed.
According to the January 2005 Greenpeace report “No market for GM labelled
food in Europe”, Europe's top 30 retailers and top 30 food & drink
producers have policies and non-GM commitments which reveal a massive
international food industry rejection of GM ingredients. This cuts across
the industry from food and drink manufacturers to retailers, and includes
everything from snacks and ready meals to pet food and beer. The combined
total food and drink sales of the 49 companies with a stated non-GM policy
in their main market or throughout the EU (27 retailers and 22 food and
drink producers) amounts to € 646 billion, more than 60% of the total €
1,069 billion European food and drink sales. Irish food companies doing
business internationally need to implement a non-GM policy without delay.
The Greenpeace report can be downloaded from
http://www.gmfreeireland.org/downloads/NoMarketForGMFood.pdf
(2MB PDF file).

(5) Benedikt Haerlin, who chaired the European Conference on GMO-free
Regions, Biodiversity and Rural Development in January 2005 said:
“Ireland's particular situation – as an island that is better protected
from unwanted gene transfer by wind-borne pollen than most European areas –
makes it a perfect place to preserve the seeds heritage and the diversity of
presently available commercial seeds, by staying GMO-free. The economic
opportunities for Ireland are obviously in the non-GM sector. This presents
a big opportunity, especially for international seed companies but also
smaller and medium sized seed companies throughout the European Union. If
Ireland were in a position to guarantee these companies that there is no
threat of GMO pollution in your country, this would provide them with a
great opportunity to use Ireland as a safe place for their seed
reproduction. This would not only be an economic benefit, but could also be
an advantage in terms of the further development of seeds and innovations
and new jobs in research and development. The simple message from very many
regions all across Europe is: please keep Ireland GMO-free!”

(6) Information and maps of all the GMO-free zones in Europe may be found at
http://www.gmofree-europe.org.


For more information please contact:

Michael O’Callaghan
GM-Free Ireland Network
Tel. + 353 404 43 885
Mobile + 353 87 799 4761

Or

Niall McLoughlin
Ross Communications
Tel. + 353 1 633 4033
Mobile + 353 86 819 4842

--
GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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